The Assembly of Bishops on Abortion: Cause for Hope?

sanctity-of-lifeWe here at Monomakhos are always on the lookout for our bishops to sell us out. (The last six months have provided us with a treasure-trove of material proving this pathology courtesy of Syosset.) We’re also ready to admit our mistakes. As our readers know, we have shown very little faith in the Episcopal Assembly over the last three years. We have felt since its inception that it was merely a ruse to derail authentic jurisdictional unity.

That of course is an arguable point. There are no documents or memoranda to that effect just a general feeling of desultory semi-activity. (The committee on Church and Society headed by Metropolitan Savvas Zembillas has yet to meet.)

Well, we’re willing to admit we may have been wrong in at least one instance. Please take time time to read the following encyclical recently put out by the Assembly of Bishops regarding the tragedy of Roe vs Wade. It’s powerful, more so than previous ones.

HT: Byzantine, Tx | Source: Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops

January 22, 2013: The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

Forty years ago the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision, known as Roe v. Wade, granting a “right” for women of the United States to terminate the lives of their children in the womb. This decision has resulted in some 54 million children’s lives ending almost before they began.

The Holy Orthodox Christian Faith is unabashedly pro-life. The Lord Jesus Christ was recognized and worshipped in His mother’s womb while yet unborn by the Holy Forerunner who was also still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44); St. Basil the Great (4th Century), one of the universal teachers of the faith, dared to call murderers those who terminate the life of the fetus. The Church has consistently held that children developing in the womb should be afforded every protection given to those outside the womb. There is no moral, religious or scientific rationale which can justify making a distinction between the humanity of the newly-conceived and that of the newly-born.

Abortion on demand not only ends the life of a child, but also injures the mother of that child, often resulting in spiritual, psychological and physical harm. Christians should bring the comfort of the Gospel to women who have had abortions, that our loving God may heal them. The Orthodox Church calls on her children, and indeed all of society, to provide help to pregnant mothers who need assistance brining their children safely into the world and providing these children loving homes.

On the occasion of this sorrowful anniversary, and as we mourn the violence we all too often visit upon one another, as exemplified by the recent mass killings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, we pray for an end to the violence of abortion. Surely the many ways in which we as a people diminish the reverence and respect for human life underlie much of this violence. The disrespect for human life in the womb is no small part of this. Let us offer to Almighty God our repentance for the evil of abortion on demand and extend our hearts and hands to embrace life.

On the occasion of this 40th Anniversary of “Roe v. Wade,” we republish the following “Agreed Statement” issued in 1974 by the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Bilateral Consultation in the United States (composed of representatives from the former SCOBA and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) a statement as timely now as it was then:

An Agreed Statement on Respect for Life

We, the members of the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Bilateral Consultation in the United States, after extensive discussions on the sanctity of marriage, feel compelled to make a statement concerning the inviolability of human life in all its forms.

We recognize that human life is a gift of God entrusted to mankind and so feel the necessity of expressing our shared conviction about its sacred character in concrete and active ways. It is true that the Christian community’s concern has recently seemed to be selective and disproportionate in this regard, e.g., in the anti-abortion campaign. Too often human life has been threatened or even destroyed, especially during times of war, internal strife, and violence, with little or no protestation from the Christian leadership. Unfortunately, the impression has frequently been given that churchmen are more concerned with establishing the legitimacy of war or capital punishment than with the preservation of human life. We know that this has been a scandal for many, both believers and unbelievers.

We feel constrained at this point in history to affirm that the “right to life” implies a right to a decent life and to full human development, not merely to a marginal existence.

We affirm that the furthering of this goal for the unborn, the mentally handicapped, the aging, and the underprivileged is our duty on a global as well as a domestic scale.

We deplore in particular the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision failing to recognize the rights of the unborn–a decision which has led to widespread indiscriminate early abortion.

We affirm our common Christian tradition with regard to the right of the unborn to life.

We acknowledge our responsibility to mediate the love of Christ, especially to the troubled expectant mother, and thus make possible the transmission and nurturing of new life and its fully human development.

We urge our churches and all believers to take a concrete stand on this matter at this time and to exemplify this evangelical imperative in their personal lives and professional decisions.


  1. January 24, 2012 says

    “Holy Father, our Creator, Savior, Redeemer and our God, Light and Life of the World, Who didst show Thine infinite love for mankind by sending Thine Only-begotten Son into the world to take our flesh and be born as an infant of the Blessed Virgin Mary, becoming all that we are in order to liken us to Himself; Who, through Thy servant Moses didst set before thy people two ways: the way of life and the way of death, and didst not only call us to life, but freely gavest it to us; Who, speaking to Thy servant the Prophet Jeremiah, dost remind us that Thou knowest each of us even from our mother’s womb; Who Himself was born in poverty and laid in manger, taking the form of a servant; Who didst hear the lament of Rachel weeping for her children, for they were no more; Who didst proclaim to Thy disciples that unless one receives Thy Kingdom like a child, one cannot enter it:

    “Visit us on this solemn day, a day on which we beg thine infinite mercy for the atrocities we allow in the killing of children in the womb; a day on which we gather to bear witness to the Sanctity of all human life from cradle to grave; a day on which we bear witness together to the value of each human person; a day on which we offer to Thee for Thy blessing, and to the world as a sign, our witness to Thine infinite goodness and charity, even to us who daily neglect the life which Thou dost give us, even unto killing and death:

    “Remember not our negligence and sin. Remember not our failure to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Remember not our hypocrisy, external zeal matched only with practical inaction to assist those who fall prey to the despair and hopelessness of abortion.

    “Accept, O Lord, the repentance of us who have sinned, and heal our souls. Accept, O Lord, the grief of mothers who have aborted their children as a cry of repentance. Accept, O Lord, the bitter sorrow of regret as the broken heart thou dost not despise.

    “We offer this sign of our visible unity, standing together in unity of mind, with a contrite heart and broken spirit. We offer our repentance, however we have sinned, for all have sinned and fall short, and thus none of us can judge or condemn. We offer our compassion for those in grief, in guilt and despair.

    “We pray that Thou will receive us as Thou didst the prodigal, with open arms of forgiveness; and the woman who had sinned, whom Thou didst not condemn.

    “We beseech Thee, O Lord, to enlighten those lost in the darkness of insensitivity. Transform the minds and hearts of those hardened in bitterness. Give hope, O Lord, to those immersed in despair. As Thou art Good and the only lover of mankind, visit us with Thine infinite compassion. Create in each of us, and in our nation, a new heart, taking not Thy Holy Spirit from us, and restore unto us the joy of life and of Thy salvation. Cleanse and redeem us by Thy precious Blood, shed for the life of the world. Caste us not off, neither turn Thy face away from us, but receive us in repentance according to Thy mercy, for we earnestly repent and with the necks of our souls bowed, we turn ourselves to Thee!

    “For Thou art the Giver of Life and the Savior of our souls, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, to the Father Who is without beginning, Thine Only-begotten Son, and Thy most holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, always, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.”

    Metropolitan Jonah

  2. Ivan Vasiliev says

    Finally, something good and decent to celebrate! In the midst of all the dirt–even from the midst of all the dirt there shines the Light of Christ!

  3. George, while I appreciate the words of the assembly it should be noted that this statement along with the previous one on religious freedom are both unsigned statements. This is a deliberate tactic used by 79th Street to avoid responsibility for issues that may be politically incorrect. After all, a signed statement along this line from Archbishop Demetrios could easily get him uninivted from White House like other pastors have been.

    Neither the President of the assembly nor the Secretary signed their name to this statement. There are no quotes from assembly members as well. This gives every member of the assembly the opportunity to avow of disavow this statement. After all, the views the assembly may not reflect the views of the Greek Archdiocese etc etc.

    So while the words are nice I would be even more impressed if the assembly would move away from unsigned statements. At mimium the president of the assembly or secretary of the assembly should have the basic decency to sign their names to such important words.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Andrew, I totally missed that. I was just so heartened by the strong words that my critical faculties temporarily escaped me. Plus, we had our most successful March for Life locally. We got Dr Alveda King (MLK’s) niece to address our rally. It was a total upper.

      Thanks for keeping me honest.

      • M. Stankovich says

        Mr. Michalopulos,

        Holy Cow, man! That Dr. King must have made you down right giddy, making you forget how you scolded me but a few short days ago:

        Calling somebody who speaks truthfully a “coward” because he or she chooses to remain anonymous or pseudonomous does not make them so. You are engaging in ad hominem when doing so.

        There you have it, Andrew. Now please return the gift bag and discount card you received for keeping him honest. Mr. Michalopulos, you can send me 1st of each month 30 propranolol xl, 60 mg., and label it 1 cap q hs for fine motor tremor – and we’ll call it even. Cost me $10 (insurance co-pay). Seriously, you must get it for next to nothing…

      • George,

        I also am finding the bishops’ statement more evasive as I think about it.

        Aesop’s fable on the kid and the wolf fits this. The kid perched on a rooftop sees the wolf below him and from his safety begins to berate the wolf. The wolf answers “It is easy to be brave from a distance” and saunters off.

        • George Michalopulos says

          I see your point. Still, given that some of the bishops in the GOA are flaming liberals who are “anti-anti-abortion” (Savvas Zembillas for example), I can’t help but think that this statement is a huge step in the right direction. Maybe I’m seeing more than is here, as you and Andrew have pointed out.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            The Official position of the Greek Orthodox Archdioces of America, as expressed to us delegates at the Clergy-Laity Conference, I forget the number, held previously in Washington D.C., is that the GOAA support the policy of Separation of Church and State. Further, most Bishops and Metropolitans, like Savvas Zembillas, take a libertarian view on these social issues.

            This is why GOA Clergy do not care what happens in Civil Secular Society as they will never approve of it occuring within the walls of an Orthodox Temple. However, this official position and libertarian view has hurt not helped the GOA and now the secularist evil has made headway inside the Church.

            So the Bishops and Metropolitans of the GOAA are truly Orthodox in teaching, practice and morality, but have decided to dis-engage our culture forwhatever reason, you pick: Ethnicity, looking down on Americans, not wanting to make waves, etc. I truly do not know if there is one reason or a combination of reasons.

            So while the GOAA has retained its prophetic voice it may, and I emphaisize MAY, have abrogated its obligations under the great commission to evanmgalize the world, or in our case, to re-evangelize America and the world.

            This is the discussion we should be having, but are not. Again, these are my views and opinions as I see things in the GOAA. I could be wrong and leave it to others to show me a different perspective.

            Peter A. Papoutsis

            • George Michalopulos says

              Peter, in my heart of hearts, I’m a libertarian myself. The problem with libertarianism however (especially in the cultural sphere) is that it can’t sustain a critique of the culture. Do I care (as a libertarian) if a woman sells her body on the street corner? No. As the homeowner whose house in on that streetcorner –well, I do care. If nothing else, open prostitution drives down property values.

              Ultimately, I can’t believe that a laissez faire attitude taken by a church regarding morals will immunize those within that church from the corrosive effects.

              • Michael Bauman says

                The trouble with libertarianism is it ignores community and the Gospel command to bear one another’s burden-even the prostitute on the street. Maybe especially the prostitute on the street.

                • Absolute nonsense. Libertarianism recognizes that communities are made up of individuals and it is up to the individual, through free and voluntary action with other individuals, to do the Gospel following and burden bearing. Proper “community” happens, when several individuals freely and voluntarily do the right things.

                  Anything else is force and coercion – the prostitution laws (which lead to the pimps and more violence), the cops, the jails – not to mention the forceful act of taxation which funds it all. Why don’t we just save ourselves the trouble and baptize at the point of a sword?

                  George, I assume you are just joking about maintaining your property by keeping “undesirables” out of your neighborhood, but don’t give more ammo to your critics. Your heart of hearts should be telling you that the proper libertarian responses for the prostitute on your corner are:
                  1. Talk to her – perhaps through voluntary and respectful interaction you can convince her of the the error of her ways – or with the power of your intellect or a small bribe – convince her to practice this very old profession somewhere else
                  2. Live with it
                  3. Move

                  This does not apply to abortion (because in this case there is force being used against the fetus), but it does apply to drugs and many other things. I admit, however, that it is not so straight forward when minors are involved.

                  • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                    Mike.R, here’s a book you might like: Eight Ways to Run the Country. Many libertarians do like it. One reason they like it is that it explains many differences among libertarians. It also eplains why some common forms of libertarianism are plainly not Christian.

                    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                      Our resident deacon observes, “some common forms of libertarianism are plainly not Christian.”

                      Indeed, the Libertarian impulse itself is radically at odds with the Sermon on the Mount.

                    • It doesn’t look like my typical read, but I bought your book.

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    Sorry, Mike R. IMO, the idea of the ‘individual’ is a coercive atomizing of what should be the norm and is certainly not a part of any traditional Orthodox anthropology that I have seen or been taught. Libertarianism is simply the other side of the collective coin founded on the same falacious egalitarianism. The basic assumption of libertarianism that human beings will make good decisions when left to their own devices is clearly wrong. Your example to George on what he should do with the hypothetical prostitute expresses the egalitarian fallacy. She is morally equivalent to George so, if she sticks to her corner, George has to move. That is nonsense.

                    NEWS FLASH: Human beings rarely make rational decisions because we are is such slavery to our own brokenness and passions.

                    Law and culture cannot exist without some coercion if only through community and moral norms. Libertarians, as you did, always have to end up hedging their bets when they recognize that freedom in today’s world simply means the ‘freedom’ to express one’s passions without anybody critcizing or holding them to account for the destruction that follows. It is fundamentally selfish.

                    The Church teaches kenotic self-sacrifice regarless of the law system of the state. However, to have a proper functioning state, Christianity must be at the heart of the cultural consensus. We have long ago lost that. The Chrisitan community, from and through which we are brought into the reality of our own being as persons in communion with God, suffers under all forms of egalitarianism/individualism.

                    The Church as a revelation of the divine persons and order is hierarchical, authoritative and an expression of the divine community of love to which we are called. To be part of that community and paradoxically be brought into the reality of your own unique personhood, certain standards have to be met.

                    Individualism is one of the poisons that has weakened us in the first place. “We all like sheep have gone astray, everyone to his own way, and He has laid our iniquity upon HIm.”

                    The fact is there is no cohesive libertarian philiosphy let alone a poltical form. I watched the Libertarian national convention on TV a few years ago and it was horrifying. Full of nothing but Christian bashing, ultra-liberal social agendas: Pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-licentiousness, and anit-faith of any kind, espcecially Christian and anti-family. I can hear it now. “Oh that’s not REAL libertarianism”.

                    Real libertarianism is always something else than what is commonly expressed. That’s consistent really since the fundamental foundation of libertarianism is “believe what you want, act as you will as long as you don’t kill or directly hurt someone (with the sub-text that the elite will triumph).

                    In essence, there is no ‘real’ libertarianism since it changes with each person and with each articulation.

                    Sorry. it just doesn’t wash with me. It is just another form of nihilism and it leads to the destruction of one’s soul if followed.

                    The only people who can be libertarians are those who have submitted so totally to God’s love in Christ that they have been lifted above the passions of this life.

                    I’m not there. I’ve seen few who are.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Also, re: the prostitute on the street corner. To get a woman to be a prostitute requires the efforts of many individuals and has many repercussions. It’s not just a woman deciding on her own to sell her body rather than give it away for free on a casual date. Most prostitutes are coerced into this life by myriad circumstances and many actors, including abusive step-parents, boyfriends who become pimps, drug dealers who get a young girl gradually hooked on drugs so that she will do anything to satisfy her addiction, the pimp of course, her clients who make nuisances of themselves, etc. Then there are the repercussions: abortion, out-of-wedlock births, section 8 housing, WIC and assorted Welfare, prison time, STDs, etc.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      I agree 100% Michael. Being that the Church is founded as a community of believes bound and brought together by the power of the Holy Spirit libertarianism is not the norm for Orthodox Christians. Further, as I explained earlier libertariaism has its limits when confronted by the Gospel of Christ and the mandate of the Great Commission.

                      I apologize if I did not clarify this point.


                    • Michael, I don’t disagree about what you say regarding Orthodox anthropology or the teachings of the Church, but newsflash-back-atcha – 99% of the people in this country are not communing members of the Orthodox church.

                      So what is your goal? To bring the 99% into the Church? Terrific – but you are not going to do that with legislation. How would you react if the government forced your wife, mom or sister to wear a burka? You wouldn’t like it. You would probably rebel. What do you the Atheists are doing?

                      Is your goal to have an orderly functioning society and keep George’s property value up? Fine, then have your anti-prostitution laws, but consider not mixing the two. It’s not the point of the Gospel and it weakens both arguments.

                      Statements like, ” to have a proper functioning state, Christianity must be at the heart of the cultural consensus” is nonsense for hundreds of reasons. What do you mean by properly functioning? How do you measure it? What about Hammurabi? He had a pretty good run. What is this “heart of a cultural consensus” that you speak of, and how exactly do we make it Christian? This kind language does not enlighten, it only obscures.

                      And yes, I don’t agree with your characterization of libertarianism – if there is such a thing. As you mentioned, it’s not unified. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I also don’t think the “basic assumption of libertarianism that human beings will make good decisions when left to their own devices.” I think it’s more like, “if all interactions should be free of force, fraud and coercion, I’m not allowed to use force to prevent someone from making a bad decision”… there are a lot of implications to this but I think believing it does not absolve one of their Christian responsibilities, it actually makes them more real and terrifying.

            • Hey Peter, did the GOA believe in the “Separation of Church and State” when Abp Iakovos Marched with Martin Luther King? Or was that “different” somehow. And why are some issues ignored but other political issues like Global Warming embraced?

              The GOA believes in separation of Church and State? Then why do they jump everytime they are invited to the White House?

              • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, PhD says

                I concur, Andrew. The finest public moments in the entire episcopate of Archbishop Iakavos were his prophetic march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Selma, Alabama, and the archbishop’s appearance on the memorable cover of Life Magazine with Dr. King, et al., on March 26, 1965.

                As for the vaunted “separation of church and state,” I would refer y’all to my second book titled, The Price of Prophecy: Orthodox Churches on Peace, Freedom, and Security (2nd rev. ed.; Grand Rapids, MI, and Washington, DC: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. and Ethics & Public Policy Center, 1995). In particular, pages 144 – 156 in chapter four chronicle and analyze the pronounced public moral (and thus “political”) witness of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese through 1994. Similar attempts to influence U.S. public policy from a religious perspective have also emanated from other Orthodox jurisdictions in the United States. There may be, for good or for ill, a long-standing separationist tradition in this country, but it certainly does not entail a divorce between “religion” and “society.” The twain have, indeed, met frequently on both the political-cultural left and right.

                • Michael Bauman says

                  The so-called separation of church and state was designed to protect the church from the state, not the other way ’round so that all manner of (Christian) expression would be allowed to flourish and have input into the society and culture without any interference from the state. That is exactly why churches are also tax exempt.

                  Now of course with evolving modern wisdom, separation of church and state means that the church should shut up and keep quiet and not interfere.

                  The Constitution has been ignored for so long it has been turned upside down and inside out: The Transvaluation of All Values.

                  • In my little home church the separation of church and state was kept as it was in the days of the early church, and I agree that this was a great protection for us, since we were only lightly affiliated with the greater Orthodox community. We considered ‘the state’ to be effaced by ‘the community’. We did not pray the special prayers for president and armed forces, considering those to be the trappings of empire. We included those persons in our prayers for the community.

                    I consider it a high value of the constitution under which this state purports to operate that the separation is part of the original mandate, and as a small home church we did not have the burden of nontaxation; we functioned in the world as citizens and in the church standing before God.

                    Nonetheless, there is a tradition I do consider worthy – of confrontation with the state on moral issues, as did Martin Luther King, and as have others in speaking out against abortion, against gay marriage, and the like. These are our values in the Church, big Church and little church. Here is where the duties we have overlap, but to have a state religion I think demeans spirituality and cheapens it, causing ‘sides’ to be taken where our Lord himself demonstrated that boundaries even between beliefs are artificial at best – see the Canaanite woman and the Samaritan woman for examples.

                    I do think the subject worthy of a thread of its own – because I see disharmony in the Church when the boundaries disappear, and it is one of the values I treasure in calling myself an American citizen. We are not a Christian nation; we are a nation of many faiths, and the spiritual discussion proceeds from that.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Andrew and Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster

                We cannot keep the Light of Christ all to ourselves. We should go and must go to such public events as the Presidential Inaugeration. To have a Homosexual Poet and NOT an Orthodox Christian presence would have been the greater sin.

                Also, the Church has retained and should always retain its prophetic voice on moral and ethical issues, but as Fr. Thomas Hopko has said the Church should not and cannot re-create the Kingdom of God in sometype of temporal Civil/Political entity. The Church is the Kingdom of God and the New Israel, not some governmental body. Influence the creation of good and just laws? Yes. Create the Kingdom of God here on earth like Byzantium and Old Russia? No. That did not turn out to well for either Byzantium or Old Russia.

                So while I agree with Michael’s point about libertarianism, there is a point where we should not and cannot mix the things of the Kingdom of God with the things of temporal earthly governments.

                Also, in regards to the Obama Administrations walk away from the HHS mandate:

                Given the comments on HuffPost it would seem the Atheists are not too please with President Obama’s about face. Kind of like the GOP on Immigration and giving a “Path to Citizenship ” (i.e. Amnesty) to 12 million illegals. It would seem that both parties played their people and just want to win and don’t care and never did care about the issues.

                Given this track record with govermenet why would any Church, let alone the One True Church (Orthodoxy), want to get to close to this or any government?


                • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                  There may be, for good or for ill, a long-standing separationist tradition in this country, but it certainly does not entail a divorce between “religion” and “society.” The twain have, indeed, met frequently on both the political-cultural left and right.

                  I like to call this the “Curse of Constantine.” The Church is the Kingdom of God and sufficient in and of itself for the salvation of souls. Government is there for the well-regulation of society and reflects the general morality of the people. If the People are Christian and moral the Nations laws will be Christian and moral. First comes faith in Christ then a reflection of that faith in our laws if that is what the people are.

                  Right now our people are NOT Christian and our laws reflect that. So who’s fault is that? Well, IMHO its not the Government’s fault.


                  • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                    What is the end of the age according to Fr. Thomas Hopko? Christians committing Apostasy, Apostasy and more Apostasy.

                    Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day (The Day of the Lord) will not come, unless the rebellion (i.e. Apostasy) comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition (II Thess. 2:3).

                    So the Church is still strong, still has a prophetic voice, you, me, George, Michael, etc., are still here fighting the Good Fight, so The day of the Lord is not yet. Its not bad YET. Can the present Zietgiest be stopped? I do not know, but I do know its getting worse and its NOT government’s job to stop it, but The Church’s job through the power of the Holy Spirit.

                    That’s why the Statement against Abortion from the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops was and is so important. Criticize them all you want, but they made a statement, that proclaimed the morality of the Church and as Bishops their names are on it whether physically there or not.

                    Good job to the Assembly. This is what speaking with One Orthodox Voice looks like. I thought that’s what we wanted? Was I wrong?


                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    Speaking of Saint Constantine, I just started reading ” Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom” by Peter J. Leithart.

                    Here is a review from the Publishers Weekly:

                    “Leithart maintains that when Constantine is understood in historical context, his disestablishment of pagan religion opens a place for a Christian understanding of sacrifice and of the significance of the kingdom of God.”

                    Here is another review by a famed theologian, who also happens to be an Orthodox priest:

                    “”There have been of late a splurge of populist history books damning Constantine the Great as the villain of the piece. Almost without exception they have drawn their picture of this most complex and complicated of late-antique Roman emperors from secondhand, clichéd and hackneyed books of an older generation, adding their own clichés in the process. Constantine has been sketched luridly, as the man who corrupted Christianity either by financial or military means. At long last we have here, in Peter Leithart, a writer who knows how to tell a lively story but is also no mean shakes as a scholarly historian. This intelligent and sensitive treatment of one of the great military emperors of Rome is a trustworthy entrée into Roman history that loses none of the romance and rambunctiousness of the events of the era of the civil war, but which also explains why Constantine matters: why he was important to the ancient world, why he matters to the development of Christianity (a catalyst in its movement from small sect to world-embracing cultural force). It does not whitewash or damn on the basis of a preset ideology, but it certainly does explain why Constantine gained from the Christians the epithet ‘The Great.’ For setting the record straight, and for providing a sense of the complicated lay of the land, this book comes most highly recommended.” (John A. McGuckin, Columbia University)”

                    In any case, as one who has lamented the Church’s entanglement with the state, starting with Saint Constantine, I may have to rethink my opinion.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      I would not rethink it at all. You were right. I do not damn the man for establishing and strengthening the Empire. But it is at this time where Christians started to equate the mission of Christ with the mission of the Empire. Was wrong then and it’s still wrong now. The fault does not ultimately rest with Constantine, but with us.


                    • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

                      Carl, I found “Defending Constantine” easily one of the best books I read in the last five years. You will like it. Here’s a review I wrote for Acton about it:

                      Constantine and the Great Transformation

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Thank you Father Hans. In your review, you said “And therein lies the value of Leithart’s book. In laying out for us the chronology and ideas of the momentous shift, from Constantine’s conversion, Nicea, the Christian foundations of law and so forth, he shows us how pagan culture was, in the end, baptized.” Do you think that the trajectory started by St. Constantine supports Jaroslav Pelikan’s thesis in Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture that Christianity changed the world in fundamental ways, making the lot of slaves, children and women for the better?

                    • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

                      Carl, no question. Read David Bentley Hart’s “Atheist Delusions” next. It has a chapter on what pagan antiquity was like before the Resurrection occurred and the Gospel was preached. The putting to death of death was of such cosmic significance that it overthrew a culture driven by the feat of death and all the violence that it entailed. We moderns have a very difficult time understanding this.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      I read the reviews, particularly the pans from agnostics/atheists. They convinced me and I have dowloaded it to my Kindle.

                      BTW, I read Paul Johnson’s History of Christianity long time ago; it was interesting, albeit a bit harsh and of course comes from the lens of Johnson’s Roman Catholicism. Nonetheless, I was fascinated by his treatment of the role of monasteries in transforming Germanic lands into agricultural societies. Have you read the book and what do you make of it?

                    • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

                      I started it years ago but never finished it. But I am familiar enough with Johnson to know the thesis. Johnson is one of my favorite historians. His “Modern Times” is easily one of the best books I have ever read.

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    It is not the government’s fault. The curse of Constantine is coming to an end. The state of government is an indicator of the coming apostasy. Exactly why we need to be suspicious of all pols and avoid being sycophantic in our interactions with those in government.

                • Carl Kraeff says

                  “Influence the creation of good and just laws? Yes. Create the Kingdom of God here on earth like Byzantium and Old Russia? No. That did not turn out to well for either Byzantium or Old Russia.”

                  Absolutely! Santayana was right, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    Carl, Peter, I’m not so sure about that. Both Byzantium and Russia lasted as empires for almost a millennium. Maybe we American republicans (note the little “r”) will be able to tell them a thing or two if we last beyond this century. Right now what with the debt, entitlements, porous borders, and our degenerate culture, I’d be a little bit more circumspect about our prospects.

      • lexcaritas says

        Like you, George, I was encouraged by the ACOB statement, but Andrew raises a good point about its having been published unsigned. Also the appended 1974 joint statement is pretty weak. For a more straightforward statement made by one acting like a real bishop see this from the RC Bishop of Springfiled, Il, Thomas John Paprocki.


        Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
        Our state’s elected lawmakers will soon consider a bill called “The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.” A more fraudulent title for this dangerous measure could not be imagined. The proposed law is, in truth, a grave assault upon both religious liberty and marriage. All people of goodwill, and especially Christ’s faithful committed to my pastoral care in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, should resolutely oppose this bill and make their opinions known to their representatives.
        The pending bill would, for the first time in our state’s history, redefine marriage to legally recognize same-sex “marriages.” But neither two men nor two women – nor, for that matter, three or more people – can possibly form a marriage. Our law would be lying if it said they could.
        The basic structure of marriage as the exclusive and lasting relationship of a man and a woman, committed to a life which is fulfilled by having children, is given to us in human nature, and thus by nature’s God. Notwithstanding the vanity of human wishes, every society in human history – including every society untouched by Jewish or Christian revelation – has managed to grasp this profound truth about human relationships and happiness: marriage is the union of man and woman.
        The bill’s sponsors maintain it would simply extend marriage to some people who have long been arbitrarily excluded from it. They are wrong. The pending bill would not expand the eligibility-roster for marriage. It would radically redefine what marriage is- for everybody.
        It would enshrine in our law – and thus in public opinion and practice – three harmful ideas:
        1. What essentially makes a marriage is romantic-emotional union.
        2. Children don’t need both a mother and father.
        3. The main purpose of marriage is adult satisfactions.
        These ideas would deepen the sexual revolution’s harms on all society. After all, if marriage is an emotional union meant for adult satisfactions, why should it be sexually exclusive? Or limited to two? Or pledged to permanence? If children don’t need both their mother and father, why should fathers stick around when romance fades? As marriage is redefined, it becomes harder for people to see the point of these profoundly important marital norms, to live by them, and to encourage others to do the same. The resulting instability hurts spouses, but also – and especially – children, who do best when reared by their committed mother and father.
        Indeed, children’s need – and right – to be reared by the mother and father whose union brought them into being explains why our law has recognized marriage as a conjugal partnership – the union of husband and wife – at all. Our lawmakers have understood that marriage is naturally oriented to procreation, to family. Of course, marriage also includesa committed, intimate relationship of a sort which some same-sex coulples (or multiple lovers in groups of three or more) could imitate. But our law never recognized and supported marriage in order to regulate intimacy for its own sake. The reason marriage is recognized in civil law at all (as ordinary friendships, or other sacraments, are not) is specific to the committed, intimate relationships of people of opposite-sex couples: they are by nature oriented to having children. Their love-making acts are life-giving acts.
        Same-sex relationships lack this unique predicate of state recognition and support. Even the most ideologically blinded legislator cannot change this natural fact: the sexual acts of a same-sex couple (regardless of how one views them morally) are simply not of the type that yield the gift of new life. So they cannot extend a union of hearts by a true bodily union. They cannot turn a friendship into the one-flesh union of marriage. They are not marital. This is not just a Christian idea, but one common to every major religious tradition and our civilization’s great philosophical traditions, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome.
        The pending bill is not only a dangerous social experiment about marriage. It is also a lethal attack upon religious liberty. This so-called “religious freedom” would not stop the state from obligating the Knights of Columbus to make their halls available for same-sex “weddings.” It would not stop the state from requiring Catholic grade schools to hire teachers who are legally “married” to someone of the same sex. This bill would not protect Catholic hospitals, charities, or colleges, which exclude those so “married” from senior leadership positions. Nor would it protect me, the Bishop of Springfield, if I refused to employ someone in a same-sex “marriage” who applied to the Diocese for a position meant to serve my ministry as your bishop. This “religious freedom” law does nothing at all to protect the consciences of people in business, or who work for the government. We saw the harmful consequences of deceptive titles all too painfully last year when the so-called “Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act” forced Catholic Charities out of foster care and adoption services in Illinois.
        These threats do not raise a question about drafting a better law, one with more extensive conscience protections. There is no possible way – none whatsoever- for those who believe that marriage is exclusively the union of husband and wife to avoid legal penalties and harsh discriminatory treatment if the bill becomes law. Why should we expect it be otherwise? After all, we would be people who, according to the thinking behind the bill, hold onto an “unfair” view of marriage. The state would have equated our view with bigotry – which it uses the law to marginalize in every way short of criminal punishment.
        The only way to protect religious liberty, and to preserve marriage, is to defeat this perilous proposal. Please make sure our elected representatives understand that and know that they will be held to account.
        Sincerely yours in Christ,
        Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki
        Bishop of Springfield in Illinois

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      Well, let me see Archbishop Demetrios is the Head of the Bishop’s Assembly and so are alot of other Bishops. A statement comes out from them that Archbishop Demetrios is the President of. Are your serious with what you just said? Shhesh!


  4. Trudge at SmartVote says

    A strong statement, but invisible. Theoretical but with no legs.

    The irony is that what the bishops are urging the laity to do in the last sentence is what they are unwilling to do themselves:
    “We urge our churches and all believers to take a concrete stand on this matter at this time…”

    When Christianity was in its strength, Christ, the Apostles and Church Fathers, and the Prophets before them demonstrated concrete action by:

    Confrontation of the people in authority who were doing and teaching evil.

    Excommunication of Christians who were publicly opposed to Christian morality and undermining the Church.

    Using the means of the communication channels of the time to broadcast Truth and Morality to persuade Christians and outsiders with artful expression and energy commensurate to the task.

    Willingness to suffer personally to do the above.

  5. macedonianreader says

    This is good. I’m not sure what the “right to a decent life” means in the agreed statement. But this is good.

  6. Sean Richardson says

    Is there anywhere a list of those hierarchs and clergy from the Orthodox Church who marched and made a statement?

  7. Unfortunately, not only did the bishops not sign this declaration, but they inserted this giant strawman argument and false moral equivalency play right smack in the middle of their statement:

    It is true that the Christian community’s concern has recently seemed to be selective and disproportionate in this regard, e.g., in the anti-abortion campaign. Too often human life has been threatened or even destroyed, especially during times of war, internal strife, and violence, with little or no protestation from the Christian leadership. Unfortunately, the impression has frequently been given that churchmen are more concerned with establishing the legitimacy of war or capital punishment than with the preservation of human life.

    What a crock! These guys just can’t help themselves, they defame and insult the non-liberal and non-leftist Christians every chance they get.

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      How many Statements from the US Catholic Bishops have every bishops signature? Are you people for real? Hey check this out: “Thou Shalt not Kill.” What a crock! so short, no clarity and no signature from Moses or God. What was God ashamed to sign His name?

      Grow up people.


    • Oh, please. This was well thought out and wasn’t about not offending the seated on left or right. The church can’t be silent about war and scream from the mountaintop about abortion.

      This has been a longstanding hypocrisy they recognized.

      Unfortunately, we can never expect the world to be Orthodox, and making abortion unlawful has its own set of problems.

      There are problems with current law, too. If a pregnant woman is murdered, how can the murderer be charged if the mother would not?

      Unfortunately as well, the issue is typically fought as a matter of right n wrong; deplorable or approved, and rather than finding common ground, it is said there is none. And when doctors are killed, it is lauded incorrectly as life giving, when it is not.

      Promoting motherhood is the greatest need, and again, that was essentially absent from the writing.

  8. cynthia curran says

    Well, the coerced nature of of prostution was mention in the Justinian Code, so this has been for over 1,500 years. Most prostuties are not like Pericles mistress Aspasia a high price courtsean.

    • George Michalopulos says

      I know from my personal professional experience how deadening to the soul a paid encounter with a stranger must be for a young woman. Either she complies or she gets beaten. This came to me several years ago, when I saw a twenty-something young lady come into the pharmacy and demand that her Alprazolam 2mg prescription be filled with “Xanax bars [sic]” and not another generic brand. It took me awhile to figure it out and I probably wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the repetition over the years. Very depressing.

  9. cynthia curran says

    Well, Peter I take the other side on the immirgation issue, the Repubicians are not going to get much vote from people who have large numbers of their children on free and reduce lunch programs. Also, it is not fair to the native born particulary other Hispanics and Blacks and even some blue collar whites. Construcation wages because of years of illegal immirgants taking construcation jobs have knocked wages from over 20 per hr to 12 per hr. Also, the illegal immirgants that were legalized some advance while others lived in barrios particulary in So California where its common for 10 people to live in a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment. Yes, you will say they are poorer in Mexico but until recently they were less likely to be in a gang in Mexico but the gang culture was sent back to Mexico and Central America thru the illegal immirgant process.

  10. cynthia curran says

    Got to agree with George with this, in the earlier period the Byzantines had the advantage over the west since the west fell apart do to political problems and invasions. In fact, while the East sees Justinian as a hero by taking back North Africa and Italy the west has not. The prince Valiant cartoon sees him as the villian.

  11. cynthia curran says

    Well on Constantine there is some evidence that Constantine might have seen something in the sky, the planets or stars were in a certain position at the time. Constantine was against animal sacifrice which was at the heart of the old pagan religon. Constantine put the empire on a gold standard.The Oration of the Emperor Constantine
    Which He Addressed “To the Assembly of the Saints.”


    Preliminary Remarks on the Feast of Easter: and how the Word of God, having conferred Manifold Benefits on Mankind, was betrayed by his Beneficiaries.

    THAT light which far outshines the day and sun, first pledge of resurrection, and renovation of bodies long since dissolved, the divine token of promise, the path which leads to everlasting life — in a word, the day of the Passion — is arrived, best beloved doctors, and ye, my friends who are assembled here, ye blessed multitudes, who worship him who is the author of all worship, and praise him continually with heart and voice, according to the precepts of his holy word. But thou, Nature, parent of all things, what blessing like to this hast thou ever accomplished for mankind? Nay rather, what is in any sense thy workmanship, since he who formed the universe is himself the author of thy being? For it is he who has arrayed thee in thy beauty; and the beauty of Nature is life according to Nature’s laws. But principles quite opposed to Nature have mightily prevailed; in that men have agreed in withholding his rightful worship from the Lord of all, believing that the order of the universe depended, not on his providence, but, on the blind uncertainty of chance: and this notwithstanding the clearest announcement of the truth by his inspired prophets, whose words should have claimed belief, but were in every way resisted by that impious wickedness which hates the light of truth, and loves the obscure mazes of darkness. Nor was this error unaccompanied by violence and cruelty, especially in that the will of princes encouraged the blind impetuosity of the multitude, or rather itself led the way in the career of reckless folly. Such principles as these, confirmed by the practice of many generations, became the source of terrible evils in those early times: but no sooner had the radiance of the Saviour’s presence appeared, than justice took the place of wrong, a calm succeeded the confusion of the storm, and the predictions of the prophets were all fulfilled. For after he had enlightened the world by the glorious discretion and purity of his character, and had ascended to the mansions of his father’s house, he founded his Church on earth, as a holy temple of virtue, an immortal, imperishable temple, wherein the worship due to the Supreme Father and to himself should be piously performed. But what did the insane malice of the nations hereupon devise? Their effort was to reject the grace of Christ, and to ruin that Church which was ordained for the salvation of all, though they thus ensured the overthrow of their own superstition. Once more then unholy sedition, once more war and strife prevailed, with stiff-neckedness, luxurious riot, and that craving for wealth which now soothes its victims with specious hope, now strikes them with groundless fear; a craving which is contrary to nature, and the very characteristic of Vice herself. Let her, however, lie prostrate in the dust, and own the victorious power of Virtue; and let her
    . This is part of it.

  12. cynthia curran says

    Well, the Romans before lasted a thousand years as a Republic and later Empire about after the first Punic war Rome had posessions in Sicily off of the mainland and elements of the Empire were in the Republic period. The fall of the Empire in the west is complex but might have eventually happen.

  13. cynthia curran says

    George wants to know how old Byzantium is, there were people long before Byzas the blind fellow founded it in 800 B.C., when they found the old Theodosian Port when they were digging for the subway, they founded bones of people from 6,000 years ago.

  14. cynthia curran says

    Peter, in my heart of hearts, I’m a libertarian myself. The problem with libertarianism however (especially in the cultural sphere) is that it can’t sustain a critique of the culture. Do I care (as a libertarian) if a woman sells her body on the street corner? No. As the homeowner whose house in on that streetcorner –well, I do care. If nothing else, open prostitution drives down property values. Good for you, George I think the Theodosius the 2nd had the earliest laws against boys being sold and he was accuse of having problem with boys. Zeno wrote a law against it and Justinian wrote laws against probably because Theodora who might have had to do it before meeting Justinian dislike it a lot, Theodora I mean. They turn a convent into a home for women who left prostitution. Its hard to fine further information on the laws against prostitution in the Eastern Empire. Conservatives do our mistakely under the impression that everything should be done in the market place there are some things not.

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      Cynthia I believe the very central tenant of libertarianism is wrong in that all Human Beings are interconnected and responsible for each other. Not only was this clearly taught in Gensis with Cain’s Question to God “Am I my brother’s keeper? But Jesus Christ’s answer of Yes, we are.

      This is why our life of worship is communal and not individualistic, and why the Judeo-Christian belief in an afterlife is communal and not individualistic as the Greeks and Romans believed as going alone into the alone after death.


  15. cynthia curran says

    Well, I think what interesting with the rise of Islam the Eastern Empire lost a lot of its land and pick it up over the centuries and even after the Crusader Sack lasted 200 years which is a long time for modern standards. The Eastern Empire lasted long since it didn’t have the huge land mass of the older Roman Empire and could deal with problems in its sphere of influence. The Russian Empire I’m no expert here ,seem to expand its land control and lasted some time. Anyways, the Soviet Union with the same land mass and added countries to get fell apart much sooner.

  16. cynthia curran says

    The birth of the modern is another good book from Johnson. History of Christianity was an earlier book. Johnson is kind of odd in a history of Christianity, he is a Roman Catholic but seems to appreciate Tertullian was getting involved with the Montanists. Johnson likes the USA for the various relgious groups, kind of like John McLaughlin another poliical conservative Catholic on the liberal side of theology in some ways.

    • Cynthia,

      Yes, ‘The Birth of the Modern’ is an absolute gem.
      Anyone seeking to understand our world would increase in understanding by reading it.
      In fact, just about everything by Johnson is worth reading.