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Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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Greek Orthodox give highest award to pro-abort VP Joe Biden…for ‘defending human rights’

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

NEW YORK, October 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Popular blog The Right Scoop concluded, "The Orthodox should be ashamed." They're right.

Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's Archons honored abortion-promoting Vice President Joe Biden with the "Athenagoras Human Rights Award" at their annual banquet on the 17th at the New York Hilton. The award was given in appreciation for Biden's two visits to the ecumenical patriarch in Istanbul and for his calling attention to the plight of Orthodox leaders under the Turkish government.

The award, the highest bestowed by the Greek Orthodox Church, is given to those who have "consistently exemplified, by action, purpose and dedication, support for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people." 

Many clergy and laity have raised concerns over leaders (lay and cleric) in the Orthodox Church honoring someone whose entire career stands for and defends the slaughter of sixty million American babies in the womb and supports the promotion of over one billion abortions worldwide.

Now vice president of the most pro-abortion administration in U.S. history, Biden also championed baby-killing as a senator. In accepting the Greek Orthodox award, Biden made no mention of the abortion genocide of the most vulnerable human beings on Earth.

In bestowing the award, Archbishop Demetrios praised Biden, proclaiming him "Axios! Axios! Axios!" – "Worthy! Worthy! Worthy!"

The Athenagoras Human Rights Award is reserved only for those "of proven Orthodox Christian character, who conform faithfully to the teachings of Christ and the doctrines, canons, worship, discipline, and encyclicals of the Church," according to the Greek archdiocese website. In bestowing the award, Archbishop Demetrios praised Biden, proclaiming him "Axios! Axios! Axios!" – "Worthy! Worthy! Worthy!"

The Roman Catholic Church has been criticized for offering Communion to those who not only openly defy Church teaching, but advocate mortal sin. Unfortunately, the Catholics are not alone.

Public moral betrayal is all too common in the Orthodox Church. "Patriarch Bartholomew has a generally pro-abortion stance," Hieromonk Enoch reported. The ecumenical patriarch's book, Encountering the Mystery, states on the sanctity of life: "In all such social and moral issues, it is not one or another position that the Orthodox Church seeks to promote in a defensive spirit." 

That is not true. In fact, to say otherwise is morally heretical and an affront to the countless fathers and mothers of our Church who, in fact, repeatedly wrote and taught the absolute sanctity of life and unequivocally condemned abortion in precisely a defense of the Author of Life and the humanity of the pre-born.

The ecumenical patriarch doesn't stop muddying the moral waters there. "Indeed," he writes again on the sanctity of life, "we would normally refrain from expounding a single rigidly defined dogma on social and moral challenges."

Wrong again. Throughout the history of the Orthodox Church, its leaders and saints have unanimously expounded a very specific, very singular, very "rigid" dogma on abortion – namely, that all abortion is murder.*

The danger of leading the flock astray is real, as personified by the fanatically pro-abortion "Orthodox" senators Olympia Snowe and Paul Sarbanes, by Gov. Mike Dukakis, and by the pro-sodomy George Stephanopoulos.

Former senator Paul Sarbanes, also honored by the ecumenical patriarch, voted for "partial-birth" infanticide. He voted for tax dollars for military base abortions, for human cloning, for destructive embryonic stem cell experimentation, and against a criminal penalty for causing a miscarriage during the commission of a crime, just to name a few of his consistently pro-abortion stands. 

Sarbanes's voting record as a politician was rated 100% by the National Abortion Rights Action League. Planned Parenthood always knew they could in all circumstances count on him.

The danger of leading the flock astray is real, as personified by the fanatically pro-abortion "Orthodox" senators Olympia Snowe and Paul Sarbanes, by Gov. Mike Dukakis, and by the pro-sodomy George Stephanopoulos.

And yet "Archon" Sarbanes was one of the honorary chairmen of the International Orthodox Christian Charities' (IOCC) 20th Anniversary Gala in 2012. Some of the faithful wrote letters in protest, including Ronda Wintheiser, who explained that "one of the Scripture readings selected by the Church for [today] just happens to be a warning from God about coming to worship Him with blood on our hands – and I take that very seriously."

Fr. Seraphim Holland also protested, writing: "I cannot appear to agree with an organization that honors a person whose views are opposed to Orthodox Christianity." He admitted that the former senator may be "helpful for fund raising," but "the fact remains that he is radically opposed to church teaching." Fr. Holland then added, "I know raising money is hard. Doing it and following the Gospel is harder."**

Stephanopoulos is an "Archon" himself and as such is officially described as "concerned with the human race's inalienable rights wherever and whenever they are violated." How can this be consistent, or even believed, when it comes to someone who promotes the mass slaughter of the innocent?

It can't. Handing out awards to those who actively oppose the morality of the Church sends a message opposed to the Gospel to outsiders and confuses the faithful. No abortion supporter – or homosexual "marriage" supporter – should be given any Orthodox Christian recognition.

Like Fr. George Hill, I'm tired of having to explain this sort of compromise to my conservative clergy friends. Greek Orthodox John Couretas commented, "In the small 't' tradition, the Biden thing is routine. It's called 'sucking up to Caesar.'"

Fr. George contests the very picture of the ecumenical patriarch and Biden together. "If the EP is meeting with him for any other reason than begging him to repent and pleading with him for the lives of millions of unborn children, then I am sickened by the picture alone."

To exalt a man whose public life was devoted – as he himself said toward the end of the Bork hearings, "the most important thing for the country now" – to ensuring a mother's "right" to dismember or burn to death her baby, I believe, is scandalously damaging, because it sullies the reputation of the Orthodox Church and harms our witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Biden-Orthodox affair is all the more egregious because the award is in honor of the protection of human rights, when its recipient doesn't give the most basic right – the right to live – to the most vulnerable human beings. It's a lie, in the name of the Church. It leads the faithful to think advocacy of abortion is acceptable, even exemplary. Where is our shepherds' pastoral concern?

True Orthodox Christians should humbly confront Biden, Dukakis, Sarbanes, Snowe, and Stephanopoulos, not honor them. As Kevin Allen notes, "[t]he identification of the Phanar with a political leader ... at odds with Orthodox teachings is less than exemplary.  So many of our saints were martyred, exiled, had tongues cut off because they challenged and spoke out against the civil powers who taught and lived in contradiction to the virtues of the kingdom."

Instead of being the prophetic voice for the world's salvation that the Church is called to be, we're schmoozing up to the world, and as a result, we're losing the world.

Mother Teresa, in front of then-president Bill Clinton, publicly called him out and condemned abortion: "The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion," she boldly yet humbly stated.  With the most pro-abortion president (up to that time) only an arm's length away, Teresa of Calcutta declared, "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."

But instead of being the prophetic voice for the world's salvation that the Church is called to be, we're schmoozing up to the world, and as a result, we're losing the world. (And our own faithful!)***

After 9/11, Archbishop Demetrios was invited to join others in prayer at Yankee Stadium. While Orthodox Holy Tradition is that the one and only true God is known exclusively through His one and only Son Jesus Christ, the archbishop squandered that golden opportunity by never once mentioning Jesus or the Holy Trinity – in prayer! As Fr. Alexander Webster put it, "he did a functionally Unitarian prayer." The Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor invoked the Holy Trinity and the Lord Jesus Christ; the Orthodox archbishop intentionally avoided mentioning the Savior of the World. Why?

In light of the world's lostness, it is troubling that the Ecumenical Patriarch's concern is to become known as the "Green Patriarch." It is all too common to watch a public appearance or an interview (with, for instance, Charlie Rose two years ago) and hear him fervently advocate saving the environment but never hear about the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. Nothing about sin, repentance, or forgiveness in Christ.

Equally disconcerting is that other Orthodox bishops are not speaking against such compromise with the world. Instead, those who criticize are vilified. 

Abortion infests the very ground of the nation that condones it.

It is not surprising that church leaders sometimes compromise with the world and even fall into serious sin. That's been going on, as Jesus forewarned, for two thousand years –and that does not nullify the Gospel. But we all become part of the problem when we look the other way.

Perhaps the heart of the problem is a lack of understanding of the importance of abortion, and the priority that that issue should have for Christians, particularly in a moral democracy. So let's put it in terms we probably do agree on: what if a popular politician were a member and public advocate of the Ku Klux Klan, or of ISIS? What if he were a member of NAMBLA, or Boko Haram? Would you still be silent when the Church honored him?

You see, abortion is a holocaust far worse than any of those evils. It is for the Canaanites sacrificing their children that God commanded the men, women, children, and even the animals destroyed. Why? Because abortion infests the very ground of the nation that condones it.

It cost the lives of tens of thousands of Canaanites to teach God's people that lesson. Too bad the Greek archdiocese and the ecumenical patriarch haven't learned it yet.

Ironically, in his keynote address, Biden said America would stay strong as long as it's a beacon for human rights. He did not mention America's promotion of over one billion abortions worldwide. The vice president concluded his acceptance of "the highest award bestowed by the Greek Orthodox Church" with a quote from his father: "My dad said, 'Joey, remember one simple thing. Every single person in the world is entitled to be treated with dignity.'"

If only Biden defended the right to life of every single person in the world, then perhaps he could appropriately be given a human rights award.

The Right Scoop called giving Biden a Christian award "obscene" and concluded, "The Orthodox church should be ashamed of lending any credibility to this criminally negligent administration that continues to look the other way as Christians are wiped out in the Middle East."

 

* Fr. Enoch also points out that the ecumenical patriarch gave the Koran as a gift to a Muslim Coca-Cola executive "while lauding the essential similarity of all religions" and characterizing the Koran as the "Holy Koran, the Sacred Book of our Muslim brothers and sisters." That's doubly theologically heretical, but that's for another opinion piece.

Part of the problem is the disconnect between official documents (where hierarchs will be held to Orthodoxy) and immoral public statements and writings, such as those in Encountering the Mystery.

** IOCC's Communications Manager Rada K. Tierney's response became the official IOCC Board of Directors' statement: "We ... invite the participation of all Orthodox Christians who are in good canonical standing in the Church. We respect the relationship of every Orthodox Christian with their spiritual father and their bishop and understand that to do otherwise would jeopardize our identity as an Orthodox Christian organization."

Fr. Holland's conclusion? "I am ... ashamed that Orthodox Christians can willingly be so silent about terrible sin. The IOCC is on the slippery slope of political correctness.  I would have appreciated a more honest answer from them, in which they just came out and said: 'He has been very helpful to us, the Patriarch made him an Archon, his politics (morality) are unimportant, we do not care about them!' ... They are mixing truth with falsehood;  something the Scripture commands us to do everything in our power to avoid doing."

*** I have been criticized for pointing out a lack of evangelistic efforts on the part of Orthodox. Allow me to illustrate, from my own 25-year personal and professional experience.

I had been talking for years with some close friends of mine, and they were considering holy Orthodoxy. Without telling me, they went to the nearest Orthodox church, a Greek one. When they walked in, people looked at them with surprise. The first question they were asked was, literally, "What are you doing here? You're not Greek." It took them a while to get over this clear message that because they are not Greek, they did not belong in the Orthodox Church. This despicably true illustration could be multiplied many times, just in my own experience.

Once, as a seminarian, I was assigned to assist at a Long Island Greek parish, where a new bishop (from "the Mother country") was being assigned. I arrived early, and, as it so happened, so did the new, foreign bishop. We were alone in a room together, and after some awkward silence, I decided to take the opportunity to learn from him, by asking meaningful questions.

I had no idea that the answer to my first question would say it all. Knowing this man was from the Phanar but now assigned to America, I asked him, "What do you believe is the most pressing pastoral need in America?" It was the most honest yet respectful question I could think to ask.

The bishop's response? Looking at me straight on, with obvious sincerity, he replied, "America is not Hellenized enough." That's a quote I'll never forget.

Again, examples could be multiplied. When I serve at a Greek parish or visit one for a pan-Orthodox service, at some point, quite consistently, the priest tells me rather defensively that "we only use about 25 percent Greek at liturgy." We then serve in a language that most of the people in attendance don't speak or understand.

I'm reminded of a very sadly true scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: The convert groom's preparation for joining the church is all about being Greek, while his sponsor in the Faith lifts her breasts higher in her push-up bra for maximum exposure.

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