In our last post Monomakhos congratulated the Assembly of Bishops for finally stepping up to the plate and speaking out against the egregious mandates contained within Obamacare. Forcing religious institutions to subsidize contraception, sterilization, abortion, and in-vitro fertilization is 180 degrees opposed to the free exercise of religion. It is in fact nothing short of tyrannical.
Recently, Timothy P Broglio, the Roman Catholic archbishop in charge of all Catholic chaplains in the United States Army directed all priests serving under him to read a statement condemning the onerous dictates of Obamacare from the pulpit. Unfortunately, the Director of Chaplains in the Armed Services countermanded that order. Not being one to take this lying down, Archbishop Broglio went straight to the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh and had it out with him. When confronted with a God-fearing bishop instead of a grovelling time-server, Sec McHugh saw the light. Broglio graciously accepted his apology and gave him a face-saving way out.
Chalk up another win for the good guys.
On the civilian front, the Church Militant is proving to be as every bit as aggressive as its military counterpart. Catholic bishops are exhorting their flocks to fight these tyrannical mandates anywhere and everywhere. Even the words “civil disobedience” are being used for the first time in a long time. Check out this video of Bishop Edward Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa:
His Excellency has always been a stand-up guy. It was with his blessing and under his auspices that our humble parish and several other concerned Christians were able over the past four years to produce our own local March for Life. We now have had three. (Our pastor received the blessing of His Eminence Dmitri Royster shortly before he retired, who fervently desired for us to join with other Christians in pro-life endeavors.)
Because of the witness of Catholic hierarchs like Slattery, Broglio, Timothy Dolan, Charles Chaput and others too numerous to mention here, the Orthodox Church is beginning to see the light. Of course, the OCA has always been stalwart in this matter but the apathy displayed by the Orthodox hierarchy in-toto has muffled its voice to a distressing degree (to say nothing of the shocking complacency coming out of Istanbul).
It was with great happiness therefore that we reported on the wonderful homily given by His Grace Demetrios Kantzavellas, an auxiliary bishop in the GOA Metropolis of Chicago at a recent inter-Orthodox vespers for the Sanctity of Life Sunday. OCLife is working closely with Bishops Matthias Moriak of Chicago (OCA) to endow an Orthodox home for unwed mothers in that city. Kantzavellos has enthusiastically supported this effort. The GOA Metropolis of Atlanta also got in the act, issuing an encyclical (.pdf) in support of the sanctity of life. Although the communique from Atlanta did not once mention the word “abortion,” it was still a step in the right direction.
Score another couple of wins for the good guys.
Unfortunately, the happiness of this occasion was diminished recently when Kantzavellos publicly admonished Fr Peter Preble for the latter’s criticism of the Assembly of Bishops and the inertia they have heretofore displayed on this matter. As our readers no doubt know, Preble had published an editorial in The Huffington Post, castigating the Assembly of Bishops for not coming to the aid of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in their righteous cause. Had His Grace’s criticisms remained private —between himself and Preble—no damage to the pro-life cause would have transpired and we wouldn’t be writing about it today.
As for the letter itself, it seems that the good bishop is talking past Preble rather than engaging his arguments. The substance is rather thin. Bishop Demetrios certainly has done herculean work on the sanctity of life front but the good news is largely confined to his Metropolis. On a national level, the normal lethargy that we have come to expect from the GOA is still regnant. Instead of real leadership, we get breathless press releases about the primate of the GOA hosting conferences at posh resorts attended by industrial tycoons and FOX news lovelies. All in the name of something called “Faith: An Endowment for Hellenism and Orthodoxy.” Since the departure of the late Archbishop Iakovos Coucouzis, this has all-too-often been par for the course.
Be that as it may, by taking Preble publicly to task, His Grace muddied the waters considerably. The issue is not whether a bishop had the right to criticize a priest who spoke openly or whether the criticisms leveled against Preble were valid, but whether it was prudent to do so, especially given the fact that both men are on the same side on this issue and that our ranks are exceedingly thin. Even though Kantzavellos received a blessing from Archbishop Nicolae Condrea (Preble’s hierarch) to address him privately, it is not known at present whether he received similar permission to make the letter public. All of these factors reinforce the perception that we Orthodox form circular firing squads at the drop of a hat and are all-to-eager to give the order of Ready, Fire, Aim!
We are aghast at the fact that those of us in the pro-life movement within our tiny Church are turning on each other — to no good end. The very real fear is that the rest of the episcopate will simply bide their time while our pro-life energies dissipate because of this in-fighting. The end-result will be the same-old/same-old: American Orthodoxy will revert to the default position of worldliness and celebrity-mongering that has so far characterized so many of our jurisdictions.
This fear is very real, given that Metropolitan Savvas Zembillas, the Chairman of the Committee on Church and Society (the committee of the Assembly of Bishops that has been tasked with grave moral issues), seems to have more time to engage in political satire than to address the burning moral issues.
Bishop Savas wrote: “I posted this because I found it on the article that follows, on the apparent death of compassionate conservatism, and it struck me as the kind of provocation the saints we are honoring today would have endorsed” after posting this video:
To be sure, His Eminence is to be commended for urging his priests to set up Facebook pages. That’s one way to engage the culture. However the tactlessness of this particular cartoon raises certain uncomfortable questions, the most obvious being if His Eminence realizes that a significant percentage of his flock are politically conservative and that they might take umbrage at the aspersions that this cartoon makes about them. This is of a piece with his earlier fawning encomium to Obama upon his election to the Presidency in which he made liberal use of the Psalter to hail the President-elect. (The only thing that was missing was palm branches and rose petals lining the streets.)
And we know what his default position is on abortion: the same old tired trope that all children should be wanted. We cannot afford to have one of our own — and a high-ranking cleric at that — mimicking the late Robert Drinan, a Catholic priest and Congressman, who consistently toed the pro-abortion line. In doing so, he provided political cover to pro-abortion Congresswomen like Bella Abzug, who when asked about her position on abortion, always responded with the words: “I voted the same way Fr. Robert Drinan voted.”
Drinan’s form of Vichy Catholicism did much damage to the moral witness of the American Catholic Church and created a sub-culture in which prominent Catholic politicians could hide their own pro-abortion views behind the smokescreen of “being personally opposed” to abortion.
We’ve come too far to let this happen. Yes, the Assembly of Bishops is to be applauded for finally releasing a statement condemning the tyrannical portions of Obamacare. But as commendable as the auxiliary bishop of Chicago’s efforts have been on this front, it must be understood that whatever successes have been accomplished in Chicago have been largely confined to that diocese. They cannot be universalized and considered the normal state of affairs in American Orthodoxy. They are unique, not ubiquitous.
The recent encyclical in support of the Catholic bishops is a good start, but it’s only a start. We need more priests like Preble, not fewer —and bishops too. Because one thing is certain: The USCCB is not going to back down on this one. Either the secular fundamentalism will win or the bishops will. Our bishops better take heed. They are either going to be in this til the end or they’re not.