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Orthodox Response To On The Sacredness Of Human Life And Its Untimely Termination

Bizzlebin

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I don't usually post my larger works here on the forum—my posts are really hand-made!—but I was messaged in private about a recent statement, purportedly from the US's AOB (Assembly Of Bishops). So instead of writing something elsewhere (either in public or private) and only bringing up the issue here in response to questions and comments, I think this is a good opportunity to write a complete (if somewhat quick and general) response to the statement and post it directly here first. Though I am a canonist, note that this particular response was not officially sanctioned by any jurisdiction (though I welcome any hierarchs, whether we've corresponded before in the past or not, to reach out to me, given this statement's seriousness); what follows is the response of a theologically-literate orthodox Christian who is deeply concerned about the public misrepresentation of the faith, both in this statement and in the larger context of the times.

Here's the statement in question:


***

At the outset, I note that there are no quotes from any canons or any Fathers—just the Scriptures. That is not wrong itself (we wrote the Holy Bible!), but for such an official statement, I would hope some of the wider orthodox tradition could be used—even some "throwaway" platitude quote or a brief offhand reference. I don't feel the need to source every single sentence in every single document I make, but I do try to keep my work interwoven within the wider Patristic web—this doesn't look like a document from a group (or person purporting to represent a group) which has done the same.

Then, there are the errors. There are a lot of errors—so many that I cannot even touch on them all. But I think I should point out a few key problems, besides the utter confusion which the ill-defined but high-sounding terminology ("sacred", "inviolate", etc) sows among the readers's minds.

First, there's being made in the "image and likeness of God"—which is straight out of Scripture (Genesis: 1.26), but which the Fathers interpret to mean, post-Fall, that the image remains (in our common human nature) but we've individually lost our likeness (St John Of Damascus et al). What is the purpose of making this statement without the broader context? And why does this seem to focus on (or at least open the door to) the Enlightenment's (AKA pagan Greek) values of "free" choice (which is *not* free will, cf St Maximos The Confessor), well-being on earth, and equal opportunity? Where is the statement about being free *in* Jesus Christ, where the only freedom is? Why is there an apparent attempt to use God to buttress a theology of life, then treat life as something that has some meaning (or existence) apart from God, and then essentially ignore God in the rest of the statement (except as a mere tool to justify "life")?

Second, the linking of war and murder is almost beyond belief. For example, in St Athansios The Great's letter to Br Amun, he notes that "it is not permissible to murder anyone, yet in war it is praiseworthy and lawful to slay the adversaries.". Innumerable other Fathers speak with the same voice on this issue. How is this statement, presented as orthodox, so opposed to the faith of St Athanasios—great "Athanasios against the world"—and the rest of the Church's holy teachers? The Church's job in the case of war (which, incidentally is its same job when there is *not* war) is not to preach secular politics, but the true peace of the Holy Spirit—which is present when we give ourselves over to Jesus Christ, irrespective of the outward tumult.

Third, while there are clear Patristic teachings against suicide, even this issue has nuance. And what we need in such a tragedy is a clearer directive to *prevent* "the case-by-case discretion": canon law is designed to *stop* falsely-called "economia" in such situations, instead providing a safe answer to difficult problems without the possibility of local misunderstanding, interference, and/or abuse. St Pelagia Of Antioch, martyr, pray for us!

Fourth, the teaching on euthanasia is generally correct—but it is severely abbreviated. Euthanasia is not only a concern for humans, but for animals. Why? Because the sin of euthanasia is not so much about killing (that would be mere murder). It is about the rejection of suffering—the rejection of Christ's Cross. Thus, even in the case of an animal, acting in such a manner as to "end" it's suffering completely is not just a rejection of life, but a conscious decision to embrace death as the *solution* for life, as if life were evil. There are hardly any sins which constitute a more heinous idolatry, apostasy, and denial of Jesus Christ, His Holy Cross, and the entire Christian faith than euthanasia. Why was this left out?

Fifth, the teaching on capital punishment is nearly as fantastical as the statement's words on war: they are utterly divorced from the Patristic understanding of Holy Scripture. I do not even know where to begin here. For one example, consider St John Chrysostom's homilies On The Statues, where he describes the Emperor as "humane and merciful" (4.9) in his slaughter of political dissidents (the larger context is the possibility that Antioch will be completely destroyed in retaliation for a few people's insurrection, which St John finds acceptable). The Church has had basically no problem with capital punishment at any time, in any culture, and for reasons far less damning than are the standard today—this is not in ignorance of Christ's mercy (what an accusation against the Church's holy saints!), but in expectation of it. Why does the statement align nearly 100% with the Western world's current social consensus, but not at all with the actual saints of the Church?

Sixth, there is, almost by accident, some agreement between the statement and the Church's teaching on abortion (which is indeed linked to the Incarnation Of Jesus Christ). While many of the statement's words on the issue seem outwardly to bow to certain idealogical trends rather than sound doctrine, by God's grace these trends are not too far removed from Christianity in letter (even if their spirit and basis is utterly foreign to the faith). Ignoring obvious contradictions like opposing mercy to punishment (St Isaac The Syrian and many others would beg to differ on the dual experience of love) and calling abortion what is a form of self-defense (ie, the child attacking its mother, with no other recourse), the false belief in objective "life" should, again, not be the primary basis for any Christian anthropology, which is based on the hypostatic union in Jesus Christ, our true Creator. I say this not to undermine the seriousness of sins against the human body (or any other physical creation). Rather, the seriousness needs to be rooted *not* in mere biology (ultimately just fear of death—to that, I tell the anonymous author "Christ Is Risen!") but in Christian eschatology: the knowledge that everything we do truly matters, because of Jesus Christ's Resurrection and His gift of living with Him forever.

I do not know the provenance of this statement. I do not know who wrote it, who approved it, or who distributed it. But I can say with certainty that it lacks so much of the orthodox savor of the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.

I pray that no one is misled by the teachings in this statement—many of which are, at best, serious modern distortions of the Christian faith. I pray that the canonical bishops present in North America step forward, individually or together, in disavowing this troubling statement. And I pray that no further such statements are presented, even if orthodox in content, under such unclear, dubious, and ultimately canonically-questionable circumstances.

***

To get a little "meta", having worked with bishops *in person* (though not the larger AOB), they simply do not talk like this when speaking, nor do they generally issue statements like this. There are no signatures, nor any indication of a tallied vote or discussion or a committee from which the statement came. This was supposedly passed on All Saints day, a fairly big feast when bishops are usually busy in church—what time of day was this passed, with the demands of the Liturgy and the celebration and the additional busyness of the commemoration of Juneteenth? This is just...very weird. I'm not going to get any further into the question of authenticity from that perspective—maybe the bishops were signing off on a video conference call, waved goodbye at the same time somebody coughed that they wanted to take a vote, and the handwaving was taken as a unanimous decision to approve a heterodox statement which none of the bishops had actually read. I don't know. But I hope more information comes out about how these sorts of statements are formulated, vetted, and promulgated. More importantly, I hope that any future statements that are made are done in the most minimal possible way (ie, respect each local Church—Orthodoxy is *not* a denomination), with the clear signatures of any consenting bishops, and with *actual orthodox teaching*. What we need today is not a flood of ill-conceived statements that speciously purport to magnify the voice of the Church, but rather more living witnesses who have been able to hear the still, small voice of Jesus Christ.
 

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Ahh, dear Bizzlebin....I'm sure there's value in the above, but.....tldr. Sorry...maybe another time.:(
 

Ainnir

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So to verify if this is indeed from the Assembly of Bishops and an accurate representation of their view, I'd just have to ask my own bishop, right?
 

Bizzlebin

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So to verify if this is indeed from the Assembly of Bishops and an accurate representation of their view, I'd just have to ask my own bishop, right?
One might think, but getting answers is not always straightforward ;) . I was without power when this happened but, since catching up with e-mails, I have gotten nothing yet—I've reached out to multiple hierarchs (including a metropolitan) across 3 jurisdictions for more info. If they are able to recognize my e-mail within the flood they inevitably receive, hopefully I can get a more solid response or perhaps ask for a more public statement; I'll update with anything useful.
 

RaphaCam

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RaphaCam's Orthodox Response To Bizzlebin's Orthodox Response To On The Sacredness Of Human Life And Its Untimely Termination

At the outset, I note that there are no quotes from any canons or any Fathers—just the Scriptures. That is not wrong itself (we wrote the Holy Bible!), but for such an official statement, I would hope some of the wider orthodox tradition could be used—even some "throwaway" platitude quote or a brief offhand reference.
I agree. It seems like it was intended to be agreeable for Protestants in the context of (good) ecumenism, but there could really be at least one or two quotes.

First, there's being made in the "image and likeness of God"—which is straight out of Scripture (Genesis: 1.26), but which the Fathers interpret to mean, post-Fall, that the image remains (in our common human nature) but we've individually lost our likeness (St John Of Damascus et al). What is the purpose of making this statement without the broader context?
You're overthinking it, brother... They quoted the Holy Scriptures, applied the KISS principle and didn't get anthropological in their explanation to such a short and outwardly text.

And why does this seem to focus on (or at least open the door to) the Enlightenment's (AKA pagan Greek) values of "free" choice (which is *not* free will, cf St Maximos The Confessor), well-being on earth, and equal opportunity? Where is the statement about being free *in* Jesus Christ, where the only freedom is?
The Orthodox definition is vaguely implied, though: "Furthermore, the Church does not accept contemporary thinking that links free will with the right to abortion."

Second, the linking of war and murder is almost beyond belief. For example, in St Athansios The Great's letter to Br Amun, he notes that "it is not permissible to murder anyone, yet in war it is praiseworthy and lawful to slay the adversaries.". Innumerable other Fathers speak with the same voice on this issue. How is this statement, presented as orthodox, so opposed to the faith of St Athanasios—great "Athanasios against the world"—and the rest of the Church's holy teachers? The Church's job in the case of war (which, incidentally is its same job when there is *not* war) is not to preach secular politics, but the true peace of the Holy Spirit—which is present when we give ourselves over to Jesus Christ, irrespective of the outward tumult.
You're definitely right.

Third, while there are clear Patristic teachings against suicide, even this issue has nuance. And what we need in such a tragedy is a clearer directive to *prevent* "the case-by-case discretion": canon law is designed to *stop* falsely-called "economia" in such situations, instead providing a safe answer to difficult problems without the possibility of local misunderstanding, interference, and/or abuse. St Pelagia Of Antioch, martyr, pray for us!
How should they have done it, though? The referenced pastoral letter sounds, at least, like a good start.

Fourth, the teaching on euthanasia is generally correct—but it is severely abbreviated. Euthanasia is not only a concern for humans, but for animals. Why? Because the sin of euthanasia is not so much about killing (that would be mere murder). It is about the rejection of suffering—the rejection of Christ's Cross. Thus, even in the case of an animal, acting in such a manner as to "end" it's suffering completely is not just a rejection of life, but a conscious decision to embrace death as the *solution* for life, as if life were evil. There are hardly any sins which constitute a more heinous idolatry, apostasy, and denial of Jesus Christ, His Holy Cross, and the entire Christian faith than euthanasia. Why was this left out?
"On the Sacredness of Human Life and its Untimely Termination"

Fifth, the teaching on capital punishment is nearly as fantastical as the statement's words on war: they are utterly divorced from the Patristic understanding of Holy Scripture. I do not even know where to begin here. For one example, consider St John Chrysostom's homilies On The Statues, where he describes the Emperor as "humane and merciful" (4.9) in his slaughter of political dissidents (the larger context is the possibility that Antioch will be completely destroyed in retaliation for a few people's insurrection, which St John finds acceptable). The Church has had basically no problem with capital punishment at any time, in any culture, and for reasons far less damning than are the standard today—this is not in ignorance of Christ's mercy (what an accusation against the Church's holy saints!), but in expectation of it. Why does the statement align nearly 100% with the Western world's current social consensus, but not at all with the actual saints of the Church?
Yeah, I'm personally against modern peacetime capital punishment, but claiming there's something wrong in principle is totally at odds with Holy Tradition.

Sixth, there is, almost by accident, some agreement between the statement and the Church's teaching on abortion (which is indeed linked to the Incarnation Of Jesus Christ). While many of the statement's words on the issue seem outwardly to bow to certain idealogical trends rather than sound doctrine, by God's grace these trends are not too far removed from Christianity in letter (even if their spirit and basis is utterly foreign to the faith).
I'm not knowledgeable enough to either agree nor disagree with you, but, looking on the bright side, at least Archbishop Elpidophoros's public blasphemies are directly contradicted...

calling abortion what is a form of self-defense (ie, the child attacking its mother, with no other recourse)
It's still technically an abortion, so I think it's proper for a public document under the KISS principle.
 

sestir

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Second, the linking of war and murder is almost beyond belief. For example, in St Athansios The Great's letter to Br Amun, he notes that "it is not permissible to murder anyone, yet in war it is praiseworthy and lawful to slay the adversaries.". Innumerable other Fathers speak with the same voice on this issue. How is this statement, presented as orthodox, so opposed to the faith of St Athanasios—great "Athanasios against the world"—and the rest of the Church's holy teachers? The Church's job in the case of war (which, incidentally is its same job when there is *not* war) is not to preach secular politics, but the true peace of the Holy Spirit—which is present when we give ourselves over to Jesus Christ, irrespective of the outward tumult.
You're definitely right.
They appear to distinguish between killing in war and murdering in war. Many civil law codes distinguish between murder and manslaughter, perhaps because maurþr was the word used in the Gothic Galatians 5:21, in the Byzantine textual type, as works of the flesh.

Does Orthodox doctrine ever distinguish between holy and unholy wars?
Would an Orthodox faithful unnecessarily (as in has no tactical or strategical use and wouldn't affect the outcome of the war) kill civilians if ordered to do so?
 

RaphaCam

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They appear to distinguish between killing in war and murdering in war.
The part talking about soldiers killing to protect the innocent completely escaped me, but only because it was put so incidentally that the text still seems to imply war is murder.

Does Orthodox doctrine ever distinguish between holy and unholy wars?
It's been a long time since I last studied it, but the concept of "holy war" is foreign to the Church Fathers and Byzantine political theology, even though the fanatical survival atmosphere of the Arab-minded Isaurian dynasty brought an idea that any war waged on the fair interests of the Orthodox Empire was justifiable as part of divine economy. OTOH, the Byzantine fathers were very critical of Islamic warfare theology not for being Islamic, but for its sacralisation of war.

St. Augustine of Hippo famously coined the expression "just war" for wars decreed by legitimate authorities as necessary means of defence of either oneself or third parties. Most Church Fathers have teachings compatible with these criteria, but they aren't as analytical. I recall there was some disagreement by the fathers when the Priscillianists started to undergo persecution, these debates bring a lot of insight too, but I don't have enough time to get into that right now. I'd have to review a lot of stuff.

Would an Orthodox faithful unnecessarily (as in has no tactical or strategical use and wouldn't affect the outcome of the war) kill civilians if ordered to do so?
This sounds like the perfect example of murdering in war.
 

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St. Basil the Great, I believe, said war is never justified but unavoidable and the soldier is to be given spiritual counsel.

In one canonical epistle he says they should be pardoned yet perhaps given a canonical penalty; in another that it is wrong to become a soldier unless one is compelled by the chief authority. His opinions varied according to the times and situation. The same article also quotes St. Athanasius as commending soldiers for their duty. It’s almost as if they were saying it was good and bad at the same time, which is perhaps the essence of the Christian struggle.
 

LizaSymonenko

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A holy war in Imperial Russia was one to liberate Orthodox Slavs who were held captive by the Turks. You can see the parallelism to todays war in Ukraine. Not much difference. Here they want to “liberate Slavs from nazis.”
...but, there are no Nazis that the Slavs need liberating from. And their "liberation" is destroying the people and the nation. They are simply wiping whole cities, and their populace off the map... not to mention all the war crimes being perpetrated in the liberation process.
 

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Does Orthodox doctrine ever distinguish between holy and unholy wars?
As @RaphaCam mentioned, there is not really a "just war" theory among most of the Fathers, certainly not one that is analogous to what we sometimes find in Europe. But I would like to posit a clearer idea about the "why". I don't think the Fathers are trying to keep "war" and "justice" as separate moral categories, as some modern thinkers suppose. Rather, I think that they're trying to teach that "war" is such a broad metonym that justice can only apply to individual actions within the war, not the "war" by itself: the "war" is not even a clearly-definable thing, and there is no way to think properly about it as merely "black and white". This is why the Fathers can have so many varied teachings (all of which seem to be different but paradoxically all come from the same vision), for example condemning the basis for one war but blessing the soldiers fighting in it, and then later vice versa for another war.
 

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St. Basil the Great, I believe, said war is never justified but unavoidable and the soldier is to be given spiritual counsel.

Pr John is not a canonist and his interpretation of St Basil seems to miss the mark widely here, both in history and theology. St Basil is not dithering (phrases like "might be advisable") because he wants to "gently" spare soldiers some greater penance. Rather, he is saying that there *is no canonical penalty whatsoever* for soldiers. The only reason he brings up abstaining from communion (not all the sacraments, either, but *only* communion: recall that the Eucharist was given *directly into a person's hands* at this point, the spoons being a relatively late liturgical innovation) is to avoid giving offense to any of the other believers. In other words, this is something a soldier could *voluntarily* do as an extra sign of piety, not a punishment for war.

As a quick side note, be wary of the OPF. My godparents got mixed up with them for a while while they were living abroad in Europe, so we have a lot of "inside" experience. Their theology (and their goal) is frequently not compatible with the teaching of the orthodox Christian faith.
 

LizaSymonenko

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I may have missed it above, but, what is/are the OPF?
 
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Pr John is not a canonist and his interpretation of St Basil seems to miss the mark widely here, both in history and theology. St Basil is not dithering (phrases like "might be advisable") because he wants to "gently" spare soldiers some greater penance. Rather, he is saying that there *is no canonical penalty whatsoever* for soldiers. The only reason he brings up abstaining from communion (not all the sacraments, either, but *only* communion: recall that the Eucharist was given *directly into a person's hands* at this point, the spoons being a relatively late liturgical innovation) is to avoid giving offense to any of the other believers. In other words, this is something a soldier could *voluntarily* do as an extra sign of piety, not a punishment for war.

As a quick side note, be wary of the OPF. My godparents got mixed up with them for a while while they were living abroad in Europe, so we have a lot of "inside" experience. Their theology (and their goal) is frequently not compatible with the teaching of the orthodox Christian faith.
Good to know about OPF.
I may have missed it above, but, what is/are the OPF?
They are a fellowship of Orthodox pacifists. As far as I know, they are in legitimate standing. Bizzlebin is likely right to be cautious towards their social justice tendencies.

It has actually been a couple years since I really checked out their faith witness on their website. They have legitimate archives and a couple I have always remembered were for St. Maria ( Skobtsova), St, Basil the great etc. I have long had a couple links of theirs bookmarked and use them for reference.
 

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Update on the statement's provenance: no bishops have come forward with approval yet. After my e-mails to the various bishops, I sent out a second round to some of the presbyters I know (also across jurisdictions). In their e-mails to me, they were not able to provide even the slightest hint that their bishops had approved the document, much less spoken to the diocesan clergy about this statement. So it is total silence. No leads on who wrote the statement, who approved it, or anything else.

On a somewhat (morbidly) ironic note, the only mention I did find of the statement in all my correspondence so far was a link in one of the Antiochian groups I'm subscribed to. It was just a link from one of the members, who often reposts larger stories of this sort from the Antiochian homepage to the group—no idea why, but that's what they do. And they often get a response from the local bishop to those sorts of posts. But, in this case, total silence, even though it is now the 5th day since the statement was allegedly approved. Here's the really interesting part. This is the same bishop who, a few years back, all but told his clergy to have people bring guns into their temples (I was there—presbyters cried). He won't mind me mentioning this, despite it being a clergy-only session (and quite emotional), as the order was diocese-wide (and he wanted full obedience). The irony is that he would never agree to this statement either—albeit for very different reasons than my theological concerns, above—so his silence so far (both in general and to the poster who already knew the bishop's position on potentially killing people *inside the temple*) is just another big question mark and deepening of the mystery.

So we've got bishops who are theologians who would never sign this, and we've got bishops who are...at variance with other bishops on everything from theology to canon law who also would not sign this—who is left? I'm at a total loss as to what in the world is going on here. I'm keeping all lines open, and I'd ask anyone who has been able to get any solid information to post it ASAP: in particular, who wrote the statement, who signed it, and why there's now silence.
 

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That was not a rhetorical question. :p
Oh, ok, gotcha!

As for the suicide division, that was probably the division I had the least issue with overall. And the linked statement (which is from an actual SCOBA committee, mentions actual orthodox saints, quotes an actual canon, references current science, etc) is almost night-and-day different from the current mystery statement. I'd not use St Clement Of Alexandria as a primary witness on moral topics (given some of the recent unexpectedly-hot threads about dress and such, his opinion on many topics (which I had already heavily censored) is...outside the mainstream, could be interpreted as extreme, and has a tendency to use rhetoric that would blame the victim), so there is that big caveat, and the first recommendation downplays the Church's role towards the victim of suicide. But, overall, I think the approach of offering clear, point-by-point guidelines is a good start, and could be the basis of a more formal canonical rule later. The 2 points I tried to make in my OP are that we need to remember that there is nuance about the general teaching on suicide (which the current statement ignores: note St Pelagia) and secondly that we need to move from the SCOBA recommendations to a stricter method of determination (this is one area where there probably always will be a judgment call, but the current statement tries to normalize and magnify so-called "discretion" in the SCOBA framework at the expense of moving foward with a clearer canonical rule—which is part of the larger pattern of the statement of ignoring canon law).
 

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Did you reach out to the Assembly Of Bishops website since they are the ones who posted it?
 

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Did you reach out to the Assembly Of Bishops website since they are the ones who posted it?
I had not—thank you! Just wrote up a message on the contact page's web form and sent it in. I'll provide an update if that receives a response, too.
 

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I got a response from the AOB Communications Office. The office noted that the normal process was followed, which (usually) involves a committee, outside theological consultants, and various theologians—this makes the near-absence of material from the larger Holy Tradition all the more glaring: are there no "official" theologians in the entire US who are able to copy-and-paste even 1 quote from a single saint of the Church, but only those who rather seem to be fully "plugged in" to—let's get really blunt here—mainstream White evangelical Protestant thought? Next, the statements are supposed to be sent out to all the bishops for further edits and clarifications, but it was not clear if this process is opt-in (ie, a bishop has to see the message, remember to do something about it, and then take time to respond) or opt-out (ie, every bishop is *required* to respond, even if with a simple statement of agreement); this sounds like an opt-in system designed to maximize throughput of specious statements and minimize dissent. Then, the statement is supposed to be sent back out to all bishops for approval, but this again is not a transparent process, and my specific questions regarding voting were not answered, leading me to think the process does not involve voting, but another type of opt-in "auto approval" (eg, voice disagreement to this inconspicuous message within X number of hours or days or we will assume you approve) designed to railroad statements through, not according to the full agreement of the bishops but of elements within the AOB. This concern is further heightened by the public teaching *against* various points I have heard from numerous bishops, who, at best, could have only "passed" this statement as a matter of accident.

Still waiting for anyone else who has heard anything specific from their local bishop about this, one way or the other: for something that the AOB Communication Office writes was "passed by all the members", there seems not to be too many members who know much of anything about it.
 

Ainnir

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I'm assuming AANA is fine with it, since it's posted on their main page. And given the recent Supreme Court ruling, the timing of the statement makes perfect sense.
I don't understand the outrage, personally.
 

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I'm assuming AANA is fine with it, since it's posted on their main page. And given the recent Supreme Court ruling, the timing of the statement makes perfect sense.
I don't understand the outrage, personally.
Not outrage—certainly not in the sense that the teaching of the Fathers has been a source of anger for some people in other threads on the forum—but rather deep and serious concern, with few answers. The timing of the recent SCOTUS ruling just magnifies the problems, as this statement looks designed to be almost purely political, rather than theological. And that is on top of this being strongly reminiscent of Protestantism, rather than traditional EO teaching.

Also, note that the presence of a statement on a website is not indicative of official approval—that's why I've repeatedly asked for names and signatures and have been surprised (or maybe not) by the silence. First, the website is run by a separate team, and the page you referenced is likely a cross-post (perhaps due to a policy), hence there is not any other context or commentary that distinguishes the AOB from the Antiochian post. Second, recall that the bishop I mentioned above (who not just promoted guns but oked killing *in a temple*) as well as other Antiochian bishops (in official statements, *with their signature*, also on the website) are opposed to part or all of the AOB statement. Third, remember that the orthodox Church is *not* a denomination: there can be councils—which receive force only by assent—but every bishop is the primary canonical agent of his local Church and thus there are *no* top-down policies from a some central denominational administration that have automatic force. In other words, this is far from settled, and remains very deeply suspicious—have you been able to get clarification from your Antiochian bishop?
 

Ainnir

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Not outrage—certainly not in the sense that the teaching of the Fathers has been a source of anger for some people in other threads on the forum—but rather deep and serious concern, with few answers. The timing of the recent SCOTUS ruling just magnifies the problems, as this statement looks designed to be almost purely political, rather than theological. And that is on top of this being strongly reminiscent of Protestantism, rather than traditional EO teaching.

Also, note that the presence of a statement on a website is not indicative of official approval—that's why I've repeatedly asked for names and signatures and have been surprised (or maybe not) by the silence. First, the website is run by a separate team, and the page you referenced is likely a cross-post (perhaps due to a policy), hence there is not any other context or commentary that distinguishes the AOB from the Antiochian post. Second, recall that the bishop I mentioned above (who not just promoted guns but oked killing *in a temple*) as well as other Antiochian bishops (in official statements, *with their signature*, also on the website) are opposed to part or all of the AOB statement. Third, remember that the orthodox Church is *not* a denomination: there can be councils—which receive force only by assent—but every bishop is the primary canonical agent of his local Church and thus there are *no* top-down policies from a some central denominational administration that have automatic force. In other words, this is far from settled, and remains very deeply suspicious—have you been able to get clarification from your Antiochian bishop?
For the record, the Protestantism around here is generally either anti-abortion and pro-capital punishments or anti-capital punishment and pro-abortion. And it does break along political lines. Protestantism isn't even monolithic, so no statement could appeal to "Protestantism" as a whole. In my experience, anyway.

The Antiochian post is the AOB statement. It was not generated by AANA and clearly states "AOB publishes <blah blah blah>." It's posted in their news section: https://www.antiochian.org/regulararticle/1269 I don't think it would be there without the Metropolitan's blessing, at least. But if you want to bug them, contact info is easily found on the site. Can you like whatever you're talking about that AANA bishops have signed?

I'm bothering my bishop about other, more important (to me) matters, so not yet.

While I understand our ecclesiology, I don't need it to be right on everything all the time. I personally err on the side of the AOB statement, which (if I read it correctly) is against taking life in all circumstances while recognizing there are certain unavoidable situations (life of the mother, self-defense), without sending people on a crusade against their civil government and without crushing offenders with shame and judgement. I find no issue with this. If the Fathers did or God does, they'll eventually let me know. But I'd rather be wrong in that regard than condone taking life and find out God's not actually cool with that.
 

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“Our liturgical calendar includes other feasts of conception, including the Righteous Anna’s Conception of the Mother of God and the Conception of John the Baptist by his parents Elizabeth and Zachariah. The Church has integrated these celebrations into its life not only as an affirmation of these figures who played such important roles in salvation history, but also because these feasts teach us that human life is bestowed by God and that the origins of every new human being are clearly inseparable from conception.”

Affirmation of these figures??? No Saint is mentioned in this whole statement, let alone church Fathers! The Saints are not *venerated* but *affirmed* - these old folks from the Bible days. “The Mother of God” but not ever virgin? I reject this statement. It smells of a watered down wet ecumenical rat!
 

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Oh good grief, y'all. Email them and tell them to change the wording, then (100% serious here). I see your point, Stinky, but what about the point of their message is rendered incorrect because they didn't use all the right words? Life is bestowed by God or it isn't. New human beings are clearly inseparable from conception or they aren't. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.
 

Opus118

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As a quick side note, be wary of the OPF. My godparents got mixed up with them for a while while they were living abroad in Europe, so we have a lot of "inside" experience. Their theology (and their goal) is frequently not compatible with the teaching of the orthodox Christian faith.
I was surprised by this and went back to the In Communion website and I do not see what you are suggesting. Given that the OPF was endorsed by SCOBA, what is your complaint? At least on this forum, I have never seen a complaint about Jim Forest, but rather the opposite.
 

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I was surprised by this and went back to the In Communion website and I do not see what you are suggesting. Given that the OPF was endorsed by SCOBA, what is your complaint? At least on this forum, I have never seen a complaint about Jim Forest, but rather the opposite.
There is plenty wrong not just with Jim Forest's NGO but with his personal writings, too. For one brief example, consider his teaching on pride. Here is the key quote:

"
The craving to be ahead of others, more valued than others, to be able to keep others in a state of fear, the inability to admit mistakes or apologize—these are among the symptoms of pride. Because of pride, the way is opened for countless other sins: deceit, lies, theft, violence and all acts that destroy community with God and with those around us.
"

—Jim Forest (September 11 And Reverence for Life | In Communion: 25 (Winter 2002))

In his understanding, as far as I understand it, pride is not a problem because of its utter rejection of God. It is a problem because it might lead {old ladies gasp} to violence, the loss of physical peace! In other words, the belief in God (and the sin of pride) is not about God but about peace—God (and thus humility) is just the tool. Any religion, philosophy, or NGO which preaches "peace", therefore, is "good"—and belief in the Trinity (and unity in Jesus Christ) is perhaps not even secondary in this scheme. If you want to discuss Jim Forest more, start a new, specific thread; I'll just leave it at this Chesterton quote:

"
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.
"

—GK Chesterton (Orthodoxy: ch The Suicide Of Thought)

But back to the statement, it is not surprising the OPF was brought up, because it certainly reeks like the work of the OPF (which uses—occasionally "affirms"—Christ as great teacher) vs the Church (which *worships* Him *as God*). Yet I don't think this is OPF work, per se, which is more centered on Europe and more influenced by the Christian heresies there. Rather, I think this is part of a home-grown Pro-Life™ movement built on distinctly American mythologies (and pathologies), using (biological) "life" instead of (earthly) "peace" as its god. Of course life is good—it's a gift from God! But it cannot *be* our god, and the purported AOB statement (and larger US Pro-Life™ movement) leans heavily in that idolatrous direction, at least when it is engaged in theological conversation at all and not political theater.
 

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Update from the AOB website: instead of adding some signatures from actual bishops (or, you know, quotes from an orthodox Christian saint, which the AOB statement assures us they "affirm"), a second statement has been released which has 11 quotes...from the US Supreme Court. I will not link it here, as it is wholly political—it links to the SCOTUS directly (where's the link to Patristic material?) and even manages to avoid the use of the words "Jesus", "Christ", and "God" entirely—one might (rightly) wonder what precisely the "commitment to minister to all people" now consists of. So, just as I wrote at the outset, it should be much clearer now that the original statement has little to do with orthodox Christianity, and a whole lot to do with politics. This is the new word from the AOB website (which I increasingly suspect may not speak for any canonical bishop whatsoever): forget the saints, instead go study these quotes from secular courts, for they will save us! I would write more, but I'm kind of at a loss for words right now—may God grant the bishops courage to publicly stand up for Him, our True Life!
 

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Came across something while I was organizing my bookmarks (hah yes I'm not bored I'm in a bookmark crisis because I have so many that it's messing things up) that sort of reminded of this thread. It looks like a similar phenomenon, albeit time from the Latin Catholic front.

https://www.crisismagazine.com/2019/is-it-time-to-abolish-the-usccb

(note: I neither agree nor disagree with the article. That said it does have a few glaring flaws: its criticism is heavily towards [then, and mostly still] current issues of concern to the author's readership base, and says nothing about things like ecclesiology, canon law, and church history)

This article is a a bit better. (well more than a bit better):
https://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/02/the-end-of-the-bernardin-era
 

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Here and now (well...sometimes...)

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Came across something while I was organizing my bookmarks (hah yes I'm not bored I'm in a bookmark crisis because I have so many that it's messing things up) that sort of reminded of this thread. It looks like a similar phenomenon, albeit time from the Latin Catholic front.

https://www.crisismagazine.com/2019/is-it-time-to-abolish-the-usccb

(note: I neither agree nor disagree with the article. That said it does have a few glaring flaws: its criticism is heavily towards [then, and mostly still] current issues of concern to the author's readership base, and says nothing about things like ecclesiology, canon law, and church history)

This article is a a bit better. (well more than a bit better):
https://www.firstthings.com/article/2011/02/the-end-of-the-bernardin-era
Very helpful context; thank you—I also have my concerns about the analyses but the history was news to me. It seems this is not limited to evangelicalism, but has hit the RCC in similar ways. I'm just still a bit stunned that this wonderful opportunity—the possibility that so many children's physical lives will be saved, that they will be born, and that they might come to know Jesus Christ more deeply—has been turned into yet another thing that is *not* about God: it's late-stage secularism, just more dressed up to look like "church".
 

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Bizzlebin said:
AOB statement, which (if I read it correctly) is against taking life in all circumstances while recognizing there are certain unavoidable situations (life of the mother, self-defense)
[B said:
RaphaCam[/B]]...looking on the bright side, at least Archbishop Elpidophoros's public blasphemies are directly contradicted...
Perhaps AB Elpidophoros's remarks of 1/21/22 are (Viz: "By His incarnation, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ assumed human nature, through His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. She freely chose to bring Him into the world, and God respected her freedom... We march not for coercion." -GOA AB Elpidophoros https://www.goarch.org/-/march-for-life-2022 )

-however a Twitter post (below) just "liked" by His Eminence asserting pregnancy itself/as such as a threat to life may suggest the self-defense/life of the mother clause might itself prove flexible enough to expand the scope of actual abortions -it least in imagination if not potentially more.

Ms. Gallop's assertion approved by His Emminence, that pregnancy is "more dangerous than abortion," is completely wrong. That is because 100% of abortions result in mortality; far less than 100% of pregnancies do. His Emminence should perhaps consider brushing up on basic mathematics, or ethics, or both. Don't hold your breath for it.



(source: https://www.helleniscope.com/2022/0...eal-hope-killer-against-the-sanctity-of-life/ )
 
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xariskai

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Let's consider at Cindy Gallop's post a bit further.



Re "They will die of infections, of preeclampsia, of hemorrhage, as they are forced to submit their bodies to pregnancies that they never wanted..."

According to the highest figure I could find (available stats vary) there is a 0.0173% chance any given pregnancy will result in a pregnancy-related death using one of the highest reported statistics for pregnancy-related deaths ( https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehea...y/pregnancy-mortality-surveillance-system.htm )

What should that mean for us individually? Rounding to .02% let's see what that looks like in an Odd's Calulator:









So in practical Las Vegas Odds terms a concrete pregnant individual is looking at a 0% probability event likelihood of dying from pregnancy. Doesn't mean it can't happen, but it's a very, very, very bad bet at 0% odds to expect that it will.

Political motivated fear-mongering aside, in terms of standardized contemporary risk impact /probability calculus we are firmly in the Low Impact / Low Probability range of the chart (see below). The recommended manner of assessment of potential contingencies in such a range is below the graph.

If a doctor gives us those odds of dying for some operation or treatment (whether 0% or 0.0173%) there is zero mathematical warrant to call our lawyer to draw up a will or buy a grave plot on the basis of those odds alone if not already so inclined for some other cause. Compare the odds of being born with 11 fingers or toes is 1 in 500; you're not going to find 11 fingered gloves for sale at WalMart. Look around and see.

What about getting an abortion to lower your chances of dying? "In 2005, the journal Contraception published a letter from Dr. Philip Darney, who claimed the death rate from medication abortion among Planned Parenthood patients, at that time, was “1.5 per 100,000" https://www.liveaction.org/news/fda-abortion-pill-deaths-hospitalizations/ If we round 0.015% again to fit the number digits our odds calculator accepts we again have .02%. We conclude Ms. Gallop's claim abortions are safer than pregnancy are balderdash. Even if they were correct, which they aren't, Ms. Gallop's assertion approved by His Emminence, that pregnancy is "more dangerous than abortion," would be completely wrong regardless. That is because 100% of abortions result in mortality; far less than 100% of pregnancies do. If you don't want *anyone* to die, the worse thing you can do is opt for abortion where someone *will* die. The best thing you can do is go through with the pregnancy, odds as we have seen are about 0% that you will die from the pregnancy.

Conclusion: Statistically/mathematically/logically if you are pregnant you should plan your nursery, buy baby clothes and diapers, you should you should ignore political fear-mongerers and in this case Archbishop Elpidophoros ;)




 
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