Saturday, March 27, 2021

Important words from Bp. Mark of Philadelphia

I was appalled to read a recent editorial insisting that all people wanting to return to mass (it was an at least ostensibly Catholic publication) must first be vaccinated with these new treatments. A surprising pronouncement considering that even our military personnel aren't being compelled to do so. And yet even some of our Orthodox camps are discussing "requirements" for counselor and staff positions this summer. I pray the Episcopal Assembly takes up the below wording as a pan-Orthodox level.


Dear to God,

Christ is in our midst! Greetings as we begin the third week of Great Lent. I pray your

Lenten Journey is proving fruitful.

The past year has truly been a rollercoaster ride for all of us and we need to be mindful and

considerate of those suffering from isolation, fear, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and loneliness, as well as those who have lost loved ones. Additionally, divisions occurred as people lost the ability to discuss differing opinions on a variety of matters. Hopefully, we are encouraged by the drastic decrease in the number of hospitalizations and deaths attributed to COVID 19 since mid-January, even before significant numbers were administered the experimental COVID 19.

On January 22, 2021 the Assembly of Bishops issued a Statement Regarding Developments in Medicine: COVID-19 Vaccines & Immunizations. The fourth paragraph explicitly states, “We therefore encourage all of you – the clergy and the lay faithful of our Church – to consult your physicians in order to determine the appropriate course of action for you, just as you do for surgeries, medications, and vaccinations, in cancer treatments and other ailments.”

Each person must prayerfully consider what the correct course of action is. As your Bishop, I insist each of you respect the conscience and privacy of your brothers and sisters in Christ. No one is to be asked if he or she has or has not received the injections. No one is to be denied full participation in the Divine Services or parish life regardless of his or her decision. No one should be judged or criticized one way or the other.

Let us continue the Fast focusing on drawing nearer to Christ the Source of Life and to one another.

Your unworthy father in Christ,

+ MARK, Archbishop of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania


  1. I'm not appalled. Is it realistic, practically or even from a "economy of salvation" point of view? No. That said I am no more appalled at requiring clergy,parishioners, church camp workers, students/parents who attend my childrens school, etc. to be vaccinated against this pandemic than I am appalled at asking them to put on their seatbelts/booster seats (or simply stop on red, observe speed limits, etc.), or have the proper number of fire exits, sprinklers, fire extiguishers for their temples/parish halls, etc.

    Bishop Mark is wrong. People who do not put their properly restrain their children in vehicals, or build substandard housing, or exceed the speed limit, or knowingly/willing act as vector to deadly pandemics should be judged, and it is entirely Christian and rational to do so. Such things are not the mere perview of the radical individual, even if such individualism is dubiously couched in St Paul's "freedom in Christ" language, or in Bishop Mark's case the modernist/Cartesian language of "privacy"...

  2. Jake, seatbelts and fire extinguishers don't involve a modification of one's body. I am not anti vaccine, but I do see that the ethical implications are different. Bishop Mark's position is based in ancient Orthodox wisdom as well as foresight. I will likely get the vaccine, but to participate in forcing others to do so would be wrong, and is the kind of behaviour that makes the rise of totalitarian regimes possible. I don't think that's what's going to happen, but it behooves us guard against these things on principle.

    1. In Canada, they are forcing Canadian citizens to go through lengthy and expensive quarantine procedures coming back into the country. Some reports liken the quarantine centers to internment camps.

      Many politicians like John Kerry have welcomed the "pandemic" as a jump start on the Great Reset.

      The use of vaccine proof to allow travel and other participation in society is troubling to me. Especially when the CDC "guidelines" for Easter celebrations is for non-vaccinated people to stay home from services while the vaccinated can attend unmasked.

      The effect is to divide the flock.

      We, especially our Bishops, need to begin thinking strategically and be wise. Bp. Mark is right on the mark (no pun intended).

      From the beginning government action has been over reaction. the web site of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons has several articles on the prevention and early treatment of COVID that are thoughtful and sober.

      A former colleague of mine recently came down with the disease. He had already formulated a plan. He sought early treatment form a doc if the type recommended by the AAPS articles and was done in a week. He is 55. His 80 year old father caught it earlier, did not tell anyone until he was deeply sick and succumbed to the heart and lung effects of the disease.

      There is no proof that the vaccine provides protection of any kind that make it worth the risks.

      The biggest risk though for us is letting the combination of government over reach and fear divide us.

  3. "...seatbelts and fire extinguishers don't involve a modification of one's body"

    All medicine could be considered "a modification of ones body". Eating your vegetables and not having chocolate cake for a meal everyday is a modification (i.e. has physical, spiritual, "ontological" effect). Let you on the dirty secret of medicine - it's all compromised. There is no moral purity to found in it as it is all death and dying. Vaccines, including these for this Wuhan virus, are in truth are more morally unambiguous than most of modern medicine.

    Pandemics are not physical, and thus spiritual, phenomena that are "contained" (to choose a word) to the "privacy your own bedroom". Since when did the communal aspects Orthodoxy become "private". A persons decision to be vaccinated has significant communal consequences, within the parish and as well as the wider community. This is simply reality, and it is delusional to believe/argue otherwise.

    Bishop's Mark's logic and grasp of reality is fundamentally flawed *before* he even gets to applying Christian insight and ethical, pastoral,and economic (in the theological sense) insight/praxis. I understand this to a certain extant - he as well as the rest of us want a certain outcome, in this case a "normalcy" on a communal level, but its important not to deny reality so that we can return to the comfort of "normal" for this is to live a lie (and there is nothing Christian in that)...

  4. His Excellency comes from an American/Liberty POV, not well received in our traditional, hierarchical schema. I trust he would plead us all to have this prophylactic
    measure, yet one's conscience remains paramount. God Bless him.

  5. Why do we always try to push a rope up and not succeed. Too many times we refuse to recognize the fact that we live in a heterogenous society
    . The time of the homogenous society,, or even pockets of one,,is but an artifact of the past. Therefore, to meet the needs of today's society, the church cannot remain an artifact of the past, but needs to relate to faithful of today. So the church is a dynamic, evolving entity
    . We see this is the present diversity that exists in the eastern orthodox christian church today. However what we must do, and what we are reluctant to do is to perform a realistic continue, start,stop evaluation of ourselves, our practices, and our ministry. By doing so, we Canmore clearly define what and who we are, and what truths and beliefs are unchangeable. We love to citicize and live in the past,by doing so, we hasten the time that we become an artifact. God has given us talents, knowledge, creativity, and many more attributes that we fail to use effectively to ensure we continue to have an effective ministry. I think bishop mark is leading the way to the future. He does see reality more than most of us do.

  6. I wonder who will be the first patron saint of forcibly injecting people with synthetic RNA and aborted fetus’ stem cells. Should be an interesting icon

  7. God-Willing the faithful of Archbishop Mark Diocese will hear his wise words and heed his guidance. One less fruitless topic for some to waste fellowship time and coffee hour discussions on.

  8. Sojourner, sarc aside, I think enough folks even in America can easily read a history book and see how the best intentions of government to forcibly "treat" it citizens backfired, caused enormous grief and anger, and ended up being more "socially" costly than imagined. We live is a very litigious society, worse than before. I'd imagine will see a lot of lawsuits here.

    We all spent a year under various "mandates" and challenges to those mandates. It's been drilled into our heads that masks and social distancing literally saves lives and to not do those things literally kills people.

    Constitutional challenges to all kinds of laws and government actions through the 14th amendment has pretty much sealed the fate of a lot of stuff. It's impossible at this point to argue that the only way to allow people to go to school, hold a job, etc etc requires you forcibly getting an experimental drug against your will or else.

    We already know social distancing and wearing a mask works, right?!?

    Sorry, but violating someones constitutional rights, even for a good reason, even for the greater good, can only be done if there is no other way that is less burdensome.

    Good luck, we already proved, World wide, folks have an alternative to forcing an experimental drug on to folks.

    1. The counter to this particular judgement as to what is and what is not "a constitutional right" are precedents that screaming "fire" in a theater and building codes (such as "EXIT" signs in churches) are breech in not breeches of 1st.

      From an epidemiological stand point, masks and social distancing are effective, but compliance in individualistic cultures such as ours means that in practice they are just a stop gap. Vaccination is much more effective, but again compliance is a critical factor, and unfortunately how much is needed is difficult to pin down - thus the passionate debate around "herd immunity", "Fauci lied!", etc.

      Yours and Bishop Mark's assertions of "experimental", timing of spikes of cases/hospitalizations, and the like is convenient rhetoric for your preferred outcome of "normalcy" for worship/parish life. As far as the "conscience", pandemics, and the tension between individual and communal life, you both appear to be leaning on Locke as much as Christ. Where do your "rights" begin and end, and where do those around you (say in a school, or at the workplace, or in the parish/church camp) begin and end? How do you adjudicate this tension? This is sort of the central theme in the grand story of Classical Liberalism, and as the quote of T.S. Eliot our host displays on every page of this blog it is a problematic and non-Christian story and struggle.

      All this simply reinforces the truth of Anti-Gnostic's maxim that "ecclesia downstream from culture"...

    2. Good luck to you and your Jake.
      We all have to be responsible and be willing to be responsible for our choices and how that do and don't affect others.
      We all have to choose what's worth it and what's not. I'm at peace with me and mine.

    3. Imagine forcing people to take an experimental vaccine that’s so effective, you still have to social distance and wear masks after taking two doses of it, for a virus that’s so deadly you have to get a test to know if you have it. Ha.

      I’m still wondering where the flu and cold viruses all went. No one is talking about how they’ve magically been cured and replaced by COVID.

      It’s okay tho. The world is losing its mind faster than Biden loses his train of thought while reading cue cards. If you want masks and vaccines there will be churches for you to live stream. If you’re not interested there will be places where life continues.

      I think the biggest problem is people trying to force their opinions on other people. Agree to disagree and let’s get on with it. Problem is some people aren’t happy unless everyone lives the way they prefer and buys into their hysteria and follows their rules, which are as arbitrary as they are overbearing.

    4. Blessing upon you and yours as well Fr. Alexis. My the Lord guide our hands aright in these days in which we see evil (to paraphrase Moses prayer).

    5. @sojouner
      > I’m still wondering where the flu and cold viruses all went. No one is talking about how they’ve magically been cured and replaced by COVID.

      The common cold and the flu are much less contagious than Covid and the precautions ppl have taken to avoid spreading Covid have greatly reduced the cases of cold and flu.

    6. Ah yes that little fantasy. This whole time all we had to do to eliminate the cold and the flu was wear masks, and social distance. A miracle that no one ever thought of that before. “Why is there no cold or flu this year? Because everyone is wearing masks and social distancing of course. So why is there COVID? Because no one is social distancing or wearing mas—“ oops.

  9. If one person is harmed for "the greater good" then there is no good. In fact "the greater good" is a nihilist/utilitarian euphmism for totalitarian control and historically always led to the supression of the Church and her people.

    I will never be vaccinated unless they arrest me and chain me.

    A fellow parishoner whom I have known peripherally since 1983 was flabbergasted that "I hadn't gotten mibe yet". But he and I have never agreed on much of anything.

    1. "I will never be vaccinated unless they arrest me and chain me."

      Ditto. We all have free will. We will all face the terrible judgement seat of Christ. I cannot in good conscience partake of this abortion-linked experimental injection.

    2. There's the intentional and unintentional Darwinists who preach survival of the fittest, who see Covid as a welcome scourge to prune and "abort" the poor and weak. Mortality rates aside, perhaps what's more troubling is some of the post-Covid symptoms people are left with: psychosis, depression, fatigue, blood clots. I know a medical doctor who got Covid early on. He got Covid by treating people with Covid. He survived, but a Covid-related blood clot resulted in him having his leg amputated.


  11. I think there is a 'render unto Caesar' aspect of this that is frequently neglected. Wearing masks, social distancing, etc. may or may not be effective against a disease that may or may not be as deadly as advertised, but so long as they are confined to stores, schools, and so on, they do not endanger anyone's soul, may possibly save lives, and are clearly within Caesar's authority to mandate. (In principle, this is also true of vaccination, apart from moral issues connected with specific vaccines.) The theological difficulty arises when these measures are required in churches. Suggesting that the Holy Things are disease vectors is problematic, and may even be a heresy, as some have suggested. The broader question of disease transmission in church apart from the Sacraments is not one for which there is a universally accepted answer. The history of the Church in plague-time shows a variety of ecclesiastical responses, some much more extreme than we see now, others equally extreme the other way. (The plagues were also more extreme.) The current plague is probably a result of recent events in the Church Militant for which the whole world is now suffering; repenting of these sins (while complying with reasonable government regulations and avoiding harmful liturgical innovations) would seem the most appropriate Orthodox approach.
    Dionysius Redington

  12. I do not think the coronavirus has been made aware by anyone that it should not spread in churches because it is heretical. So it continues to do so enthusiastically, especially where mask-wearing and ventilation are approximate.

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  14. "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." FDR

    "These things I have spoken unto you that in me, ye might have peace. In the world ye shall tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
    John 16:33

    The Church is not nor should she ever be "modern". Modernity is the mind of the world founded on a denial of an eternally living, incarnate God who was killed and rose from the dead.

    The resistance to or at least recognition of the lies underlying government policy is growing. I dropped by my former place of work the other day and to say hello and the folks I talked to whom I had not seen in a year were both quite open in their distain of government policy unprompted by me.

    State nullification of federal over reach as provided for in the 10th Amendment is growing. See

  15. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it