Thursday, September 16, 2021

GOA dissolves all religious exemptions for vaccination

To read this you'd think the professionals have been an unwavering source of dependable information. It's as if the medical authorities haven't been rowing the boat in different direction every other week. Masks aren't needed. Masks are essential. Maybe two masks are needed. The vaccinated don't need masks. Masks protect everyone. The vaccine works. The vaccine works for a little while. The vaccine works only against some strains. The vaccine needs boosters. Natural immunity is strong. Natural immunity is not enough. The virus spreads on all surfaces. The virus spreads on some surfaces. The virus doesn't really get spread over surfaces. And so much more. What will the "competent medical authorities" say in a month? Which "false narratives" of today will be truths in October? The below points to a great divide between our betters and the kooks. I propose that the divide is not only not easily discerned, but is constantly moving.


NEW YORK – On Thursday, September 16, 2021, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America convened a regular meeting of the Holy Eparchial Synod via video conference, in order to deliberate on significant matters that affect the Archdiocese of America.

At the beginning of the meeting, the synodical hierarchs with joy were informed of today’s communique of our Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, that His All-Holiness will indeed make his previously arranged visit to America, without postponement. 

Discussing the topic of the vaccination of the faithful, the hierarchs unanimously affirmed that the Church not only permits vaccinations against diseases (e.g. polio, smallpox), but that She encourages Her Faithful, after medical tests and approbations, to be vaccinated with the approved vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

In addition, although some may be exempt from the vaccination for clear medical reasons, there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons, including the coronavirus vaccine. For this reason, letters of exemption for the vaccination against the coronavirus for religious purposes issued by priests of the Archdiocese of America have no validity, and furthermore, no clergy are to issue such religious exemption letters for any reason. 

The Holy Eparchial Synod urges the faithful to pay heed to competent medical authorities, and to avoid the false narratives utterly unfounded in science and perpetrated on the Church by those who have succumbed to the disinformation and conspiracy theories that are widely available on social media sites. 

The Synod also re-affirmed that the following two petitions continue to be included in “The Litany of Peace” of the Divine Liturgy and the other sacred services:

“For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger and necessity, and from the peril of the coronavirus against us, let us pray to the Lord.”

“For our brethren, those who lead the fight against the coronavirus, the doctors, the medical workers and the scientists, let us pray to the Lord.”

Finally, the Holy Synod with gratitude was informed that the Sacred Archdiocese was appointed as beneficiary of the late Suzanne Mados, who provided in her will a generous donation for the Greek Orthodox Schools of the Archdiocese as well as to the St. Michael’s Home for the Aged. It was decided that an Archepiscopal memorial service for the repose of her soul will be conducted by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America during the Divine Liturgy on Saturday, September 18, at the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Corona, New York.  



  1. Replies
    1. Indeed. That was a demonic letter.

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    3. Bishop Elephant and Black Bart are the two most evil and unholy bishops known to the church.

    4. St. Paul discovered in his travels that the inhabitants of the Greek Isles were ill suited to receive the Christian teachings because their roots were overly idolatrous and materialistic.

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  3. It's as if the medical authorities haven't been rowing the boat in different direction every other week..."

    This is an exaggeration. Many things, most things on life have significant complexity, particularly public health. That said we have the knowledge, technology, and prosperity to "solve" this pandemic (vaccination of 94, 96 percent), what is missing is the philosophy/culture.

    "there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons, including the coronavirus vaccine..."


    1. The vaccine is not effective after 5 to 8 months (even sooner in the elderly and immunocompromised) and does not actually suppress the virus. You are never going to vaccinate 94.96% (or is it 94.95%?) of the population every 6 months, and it can be as efficacious as the polio vaccine.

      If the vaccine were effective it would simply be a matter of personal choice. It's not effective; it's ephemeral and you can still get and spread the disease, and be hospitalized and die. All it does is mitigate symptoms, which is a recipe for variation.

      It's counter-productive and pushed by the same people who use tax dollars to invent new diseases and play with them in offshore labs.

  4. There seems to be a strong correlation between beeing a ecumenist/modernist and supporting multiple spoons for communion, masks at church, vaccines with connections to aborted babies, and so on... I wonder why...

    1. The masks, vaccines, elbow touches, social distancing, hand wipes, etc. are the praxis of the new secular religion. This religion displaces the True Faith's kiss of peace, the One Bread and One Cup, the antidoron, and the veneration of icons.

      Now you know how the old faithful pagans felt, watching the One God drive out the many gods from their temples and shrines.

      Now the anti-Gods drive out the One God, with the assistance of His bishops. Christianity continues its descent into a gnostic book club.

  5. I’m sad for His Eminence, his clergy, and those laity.

    It may be an opinion of His Eminence that there is no religious exemption, but it’s simply false. If a priest is requested to compose a legitimate exemption, he absolutely should. The use of fetal tissue in development or testing is certainly one of those. Perhaps if enough of his clergy composed religious exemptions on these grounds, the Archbishop would change his tune. Either that, or lose the already dwindled number.

    I suppose all that is not likely. Being a martyr for Truth is hard. I suspect most GOA clergy will just fall in line with this.

    Besides, the Assembly of Bishops already punted on all this. Vaccines are supposed to be a decision “between a patient and their doctor.”

    Weird, we’re have I heard that phrase before…

    1. "It may be an opinion of His Eminence that there is no religious exemption, but it’s simply false. If a priest is requested to compose a legitimate exemption, he absolutely should. The use of fetal tissue in development or testing is certainly one of those..."

      I would be sincerely interested in your take of a "legitimate exemption", properly understood. I have heard it asserted that the corona vaccines "contain" fetal tissue/DNA, but this is false. Yes these cloned fetal cells were experimentally used in the testing of the vaccines, but then the dirty secrete of much of modern medicine is just how many drugs (and even things like cosmetics) are also "tested against" these same cell lines. If your going a person is going to be morally consistent with such a "purity" line of reasoning, they would have to eschew much (most really) of modern medicine. I have yet to see this hard "Truth" witnessed. As far as "my body/my choice" reasoning, I have only seen the pietistic traditionalists make this sort of "my choice/my conscious" argument, which is individualistic no matter if they have their physical (medical, epidemiological) facts right or wrong.

      True story: My wife is the medical director of one of the hospitals in town. Last month a general employee meeting was held to go over the logistics of implementing this states (New Mexico) vaccination mandate for all healthcare workers. 4 nurses histrionically objected, claiming "rights", asserting the vaccines have microchips and cause HIV (I had not heard that one yet), etc. Turns out the state mandate has a religious exemption, so about 30 employees (all but few are nurses it turns out) have had an evangelical experience and are now members of an online "Internet church" based out of Hawaii that charges a small fee to fill out your religious exemption paperwork.

    2. Dear Jake,

      Thank you for your interest into my perspective. Respectfully, I decline.

      I'll share this link here, it's old, just like the use of fetal tissue in medicine. You are perhaps far more knowable about these things and it might not be of profit to you. But, others that read the comments might at least like to know:

      From the article:

      "Every month, Lishan Su receives a small test tube on ice from a company in California. In it is a piece of liver from a human fetus aborted at between 14 and 19 weeks of pregnancy.

      Su and his staff at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill carefully grind the liver, centrifuge it and then extract and purify liver- and blood-forming stem cells. They inject the cells into the livers of newborn mice, and allow those mice to mature. The resulting animals are the only ‘humanized’ mice with both functioning human liver and immune cells and, for Su, they are invaluable in his work on hepatitis B and C, allowing him to probe how the viruses evade the human immune system and cause chronic liver diseases.

      But off-the-shelf fetal cell lines are of limited use for scientists because they do not faithfully mimic native tissue and represent only a subset of cell types: WI-38 and MRC-5, for example, were derived from fetal lungs. The lines can also accumulate mutations after replicating in vitro over time. And creating humanized mice such as Su’s requires whole pieces of fetal organs to provide sufficient numbers of stem cells. For all of these reasons, researchers turn to fresh tissue.

      In the United States, this is collected at medical centres and clinics that perform abortions under a patchwork of laws and regulations governing consent, tissue collection and transfer (see ‘Fetal tissue and the law’). US law says that clinics can recover “reasonable payments” to offset the costs of providing the tissue, but it makes it a felony to profit from doing so. Planned Parenthood officials say that its clinics obtain full and informed consent from women choosing to donate fetal remains for research, and the organization announced in October that its clinics will no longer recover costs of $45–60 per specimen for collecting the tissue."

    3. I have not doubt this story is true, and this sort of technical manipulation of the "stuff" of our bodies and life is like I said far more pervasive and common than most (rather they are Christian or secular) even have a clue. Thing is, the vaccines for corona (at least those available in the liberal western world) are actually one aspect of "the medical industrial complex" that are *relatively* unstained from this sort of work (both the new mRNA tech and the older tech of J&J).

      So why do some propose to die on this hill? I don't really believe it - that Christian (Orthodox) traditionalists have suddenly "woke up" to the technocratic realities of modern medicine and now have a duty of conscience before God and man that compels them to reject *these particular vaccines*. In the context what's happening in the rest of wider culture in general, and inside the culture of the Orthodox Church in particular, all the moral arguments against corona vaccines have been just-so stories propping up passions/anxieties and assumptions/instincts around the ontological divide within the Church...

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  6. That is highly suspicious. I wouldn't be surprised if some Antiochian, OCA, or ROCOR hierarch comes out with a statement that religious exemptions from vaccination are still a thing in their jurisdiction. Even if that doesn't happen, nothing from the EP is binding on any other jurisdiction, so priests from those non-EP jurisdictions will still grant vaccine exemptions if warranted.


    2. Our bishops consider this to be a medical issue so why would there be a religious exemption?

      For instance, Bishop Luke of Syracuse and Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY stated that: "The new COVID-19 vaccines...bear no greater spiritual significance than other personal medical decisions...". This is published right on the website of the Eastern American Diocese of ROCOR.

      How could a priest under obedience to his bishop possibly sign off on religious exemptions after reading that?

  7. "there is no exemption in the Orthodox Church for Her faithful from any vaccination for religious reasons, including the coronavirus vaccine..."


  8. Makes you think if their getting money from somewhere or somebody to say the things they say. Who knows. It sure is not Orthodoxy they are preaching."Freedom of choice"is a gift given to us by GOD. Who are they to take this gift that GOD has given to mankind away???

  9. I'm a Catholic writing here, but I must say that this statement is so sad...the Greek Orthodox have really fallen hard...the liberalism they have embraced will only lead to their own demise.

  10. Although GOA has fallen into several heresies, Jake's comments are entirely correct. Nearly all modern medicine and biotechnology depends on foetal cell-lines (just as modern society in general depends on various forms of murder and theft). What, other than unfamiliarity, makes this particular vaccine more objectionable than any other medicine? Living in a fallen world and a non-Christian civilisation requires making choices; St. Luke of Crimea accepted the Stalin Prize. Is vaccination really the most important issue facing Christians, or is this controversy just another distraction?

    Dionysius Redington

  11. All kinds of medicines make use of fetal tissue. Rejecting vaccines on this ground is a moral purity that demands we have to be consistent and reject other things too.”

    “Use of fetal tissue in medicine and vaccines is pervasive. There are bigger issues”

    I’ve definitely heard these two kinds of ideas for well over a decade.

    I’m not directing this post at anyone specific, just making a generalized post.

    The same line of thinking as the above two ideas has quite literally been used to minimize the reality of other things as well.
    Just replace some of the words:

    Acceptance of LGBTQ+ is pervasive, acceptance of gay marriage is pervasive, fornication is pervasive, living together before marriage is pervasive, use and acceptance of contraception is pervasive, poverty is pervasive, lack of universal healthcare is pervasive, acceptance of abortion is pervasive, etc etc etc…there are more important things to worry about.

    How destructive and demonic it being a for priests to give spiritual advice in this way.

    But even just for a society, it’s devastating. Can you imagine telling women who desired the right to vote “more important issues to worry about!” Or those who were enslaved in this country? Or those who are living with disabilities; sorry, just live with all this.

    We have a string tradition in our country doing the good stemming from a Christian perspective, even if our country never was a Christian one.

    There are many laity who see evil and are calling it for what it is. Support them or don’t. Regardless, they are our brothers and sisters. When we abandon them, we just cut off our own foot.

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  13. Except it's not "the same line of thinking" - not everything in your list is the same (i.e. carries the same weight in a Christian moral calculus, calls for the same *kind* of calculation, etc.). Thus you can not simplistically "just replace some words" without doing violence to basic moral reasoning of the normative (Orthodox) Christian moral Tradition.

    Just to skim the surface of needed distinctions (it's a limited comment box after all), the Orthodox Church has an deep soil of theological anthropology in which to speak to (and guide the believer) on issues like LBGTQwerty, marriage, fornication, and abortion (contraception, at least some forms is an extention of this but not without complexity), and I would argue women's ordination (i.e. it's a no no). On the other hand, we do not have the same deep soil of theological dogma/tradition/ethical thought in which to address poverty, "universal" healthcare, climate change, racial inequality (however defined), income inequality (however defined), women's suffrage, disabilities, and frankly the vast majority of other "crises" that appear in the 24 hour news cycle.

    If a hierarch/priest, or anyone else is going to throw all these concerns into a hat and then think he can reach in and pull one out attaching "evil" to it and is thus being helpful, well I assert he is neither helping himself or his flock to answer the question "how shall we live?"

    "...We have a string tradition in our country doing the good stemming from a Christian perspective, even if our country never was a Christian one. There are many laity who see evil and are calling it for what it is..."

    At the risk of appearing flippant, so what? It's the easiest thing in the world to point and say "evil!" Just stick your head out the window and observe and all you see is sin and evil everywhere you look - sin being the doctrine of the Christian world view that a person can "prove" objectively.

    Since the world and our life in it is so thoroughly and obviously impure, and to return to the beginning, why this hill - why these *particular* vaccines?? Given the context of viruses, vectors, masks, spoons, religious freedom, conscience, are you suggesting it's just a coincidence (or an Grace) that these *particular* vaccines have woken up the Orthodox Traditionalist to the evils of modern technocratic medicine and life. Are you suggesting that the typical Orthodox Traditionalist (at least here in western civ) has no Classical Liberal assumptions about his mask, his vaccine, his spoon, his temple, his conscience - his Orthodoxy is indeed more pure and true than the typical Orthodox Progressive?

    One last thought: Is Orthodox Christianity (yet another) form of liberation theology and life, one among many 'social gospel' doctrines now so common in Protestant and to an extant in RCism?

  14. I am honestly puzzled by this outrage. I'm all for freedom of personal choice when it comes to the vaccine, but isn't a statement of religious exemption from a priest an official statement about the beliefs of the religion - not a statement about the individuals personal beliefs? And isn't it within the purview of the bishops to clarify the beliefs of the Church if they should be in dispute? Isn't that specifically their job?

    It seems to me that the Archbishop is simply doing his actual job here. There is dispute within his flock as to whether the Church holds a religious belief against the vaccine. He is clarifying that it does not. And quite correctly. Bishops of every Orthodox jurisdiction have stated that getting the vaccine is permissible for their members. So how could anyone argue that our religion demands an exemption?

    Our bishops thankfully have upheld our freedom of choice to refuse the vaccine for whatever grounds. But we ought to be honest that such grounds are simply our own opinions and not a part of the Orthodox religion.

    I am willing to be corrected if my thinking is over-simplified. Can anyone offer a persuasive argument, based on cannons or longstanding historical practice, that Orthodoxy eschews medicines, or that priests have authority to unilaterally issue statements of Orthodox belief regardless of the stance of their bishop?

    1. "but isn't a statement of religious exemption from a priest an official statement about the beliefs of the religion - not a statement about the individuals personal beliefs?"
      I don't think so. Take conscientious objection to military service. Some groups like Friends and Mennonites hold official pacifist positions. But *many* individuals have obtained CO status on the basis of their personal Christian beliefs. Often, they were supported in this by their religious groups, even if the group as a whole wasn't pacifist. Example: in WW2, there were more Methodist than Quaker conscientious objectors.
      I think it's true that in the case of COVID vaccination, a lot of people are trying to dress up a political stance as a religious objection. But I'd also hope that individual, sincere, conscience-based objections would be honored in the church. The GOA statement seems to close off this possibility.

    2. Interesting point. But to be a "conscientious objector", did you have to get a letter from a clergyman? Did it have to be tied to religion to meet the government's standard, the way the Covid religious exemption does?

      I suppose one could say that the priest's letter is not meant to be a statement of the religion's official belief, but is rather an affirmation of a personal moral belief. Something like "As so-and-so's pastor, I affirm that he has a genuine moral concern with the vaccine." In this case the pastor would be supporting his parishioner without asserting a belief of the Church. But I don't know if such a letter meets the government's standard for a religious exemption. Anyone know?

    3. Yes, I think that Palomnik has touched on the real issue. While there is a history of canonical penalties for things like murder, adultery, etc. still there is much area of personal freedom of conscience. The use of medicine has traditionally been in this area of individual struggle, not in the area of what is forbidden or encouraged on a universal basis. (see St Basil the Long Rules, rule 55) There is a long tradition of Priests/spiritual fathers having the authority to work out with their spiritual children the level of involvement and a rule according to their personal spiritual struggle in these areas. This includes individual issues of faith like how to use medicine. In the monastic orders the spiritual father/child relationship definately includes this area. As religion, on a universal level, we neither forbid the use of medicine, nor do we put our whole trust in it. My tenative thought here is that the GOA synod has overstepped its bounds in taking away this area of priestly freedom. It is another example of the EP bishops wrongly intruding into local areas of authority and violating the basic principle of reciprocity and unity upon which Apostolic canon 34 was written.

    4. Pay special attention to the last one.

      Limits on Scope and Application of Religious Exemptions:

      Most courts ruled: you cannot limit the exemption to organized religion. Dalli v. Bd. of Educ., 267 N.E.2d 219, 222–23 (Mass. 1971); Brown, 378 So. 2d at 223, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 887 (1980). One exception – Kentucky – overturned later by legislature.
      If the legislature did not require a show of sincerity for a religious exemption, several courts ruled that officials cannot demand a show of sincerity. In re LePage, 18 P.3d 1177, 1180 (Wyo. 2001); Dep’t of Health v. Curry, 722 So. 2d 874, 878–79 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1998).
      Belonging to a religion that supports vaccines does not mean someone can be denied an exemption: focus on personal belief, not orthodoxy. Berg v. Glen Cove City Sch. Dist., 853 F. Supp. 651 (E.D.N.Y. 1994); Matter of Shmuel G. v. Rivka G., 800 N.Y.S.2d 357 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 2005).

    5. "My tenative thought here is that the GOA synod has overstepped its bounds in taking away this area of priestly freedom. It is another example of the EP bishops wrongly intruding into local areas of authority and violating the basic principle of reciprocity and unity upon which Apostolic canon 34 was written."

      The rights of priests are not under consideration in this canon as it strictly relates to the role and responsibility of bishops.

      Let's clarify something; the communication that you are critiquing was published in order to address matters that affect the Greek Archdiocese of America. Not only is the critique violating the authority of the this synod of bishops to instruct its flock but it also violates the 64th Canon of the The Quinisext Council, which orders that "It does not befit a layman to dispute or teach publicly, thus claiming for himself authority to teach, but he should yield to the order appointed by the Lord, and to open his ears to those who have received the grace to teach, and be taught by them divine things; for in one Church God has made different members, according to the word of the Apostle..."

    6. Andrew Gould,

      Imagine a scenario where an architect is hired to design a project, and has a choice of materials to use, even being in control of the companies he works with to acquire said materials.

      It comes to the attention of the architect that some of these materials he had selected to use come from a company who sources said things directly from slave labor of children.

      Now, in the country the children live in, the slave labor is a “necessary part” of their economy. Since everyone is ok with it, no change is likely. After all, they rely on this slave labor. However, the conditions are simply brutal. Yet, it is what it is. They country is poor.

      Now, this architect has an alternative option to spend a little more money and go with companies that source materials ethically, meaning the workers are not exploited in any way. In fact, those companies contract with suppliers in countries that recognize the dignity of the worker and have specifically created a system to highlight that value.

      The architect is faced with an ethical choice at this point.

      When an Orthodox Christian looks at vaccines and medicines developed using fetal tissue or cell line , it’s a similar (although different situation) choice.

      At least, this is fundamentally how many who are against utilizing them see these medicines.

      I’m terms of what an individual person or cleric can go, they can confirm this ethical consideration as being with in the bounds of the Orthodox Christians spiritual life. His Eminence erred by “rescinding” that, something which he actually doesn’t have the authority to do.

      On the other hand, it’s truly the “federally mandatory” nature of the Covid vaccine that has caused the en passé.

      Forcing someone who is against taking a vaccine developed with fetal tissue is a violation of faith. But, for His Eminence to then throw his clergy and people under the bus rather than support them is a special kind of terrible. Lord have mercy!

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  16. Wow Palomnik & Anna, grist for the mill!


    "...I'd also hope that individual, sincere, conscience-based objections would be honored in the church..."

    Why would Orthodoxy (ground as she is in ortho-doxia - right truth/praise) "honor" that which *is not true*? Behind your example(s), as you explicitly admit, is not only Protestant ecclesiology (i.e. solo sola scriptura, no church or *communion* between the individual and God), but Protestant conceptions of freedom and reason (both theoretical and practical). Can you cite any authoritative Orthodox source (i.e. Scripture, consensus patrum, etc.) that Orthodoxy anthropological theology is in any way correlated, let alone substantially agrees with, Protestant theological anthropology? To put it another way and more specifically, can you cite an Orthodox source that would agree that "individual sincerity" (even if you mean something other than a Cartesian epistemology, a dubious proposition within a Protestant framework) is a basis for an Orthodox theoretical/practical evaluation and assertion of the truth?

    To answer the question, I don't believe you can. The sources of Orthodox theology are from an entirely different history, tradition, and anthropology than Protestant ones. For example when the Fathers (e.g. St. John Chrystom, St. Maximus, etc.) defied the heresy of their age, the did not do so *individually* as we understand it in today's culture, nor in their "freedom of conscious" between them and God. On the contrary they did so as St. Paul puts it "slaves to Christ", *communally* with the Logos Himself and His literal (not *merely allegorical) Body, the Church. These two conceptions of freedom, reason, and truth are simply not commensurable.

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  19. @Anna,

    Are you a lawyer or paralegal? The language of these cases (which I assume are the language of the decisions themselves) ensconed a Protestant ecclisology into the very law itself. So much for Classical Liberalism self assertion of the "separation" of the sacred from the secular, the Church from the state. Of course, if you take the time to understand Classical Liberalism you see its debt to the Protestant revolution - it's a development *within* Protestant philosophy, inside baseball if you will.

    You seem to assert that this Protestant theology should be the basis of Orthodox ecclesiology, "priestly freedom", and the like. It may be the law, and I am unfamiliar enough with St. Basil's specific assertions in St. Basil's rule, but I doubt that his understanding of "freedom" and the case law you cite (and the Protestant philosophy behind it) are commensurable, that St. Basil is some kind of proto Classical best they might be weakly correlated in a specific detail here or there...but nothing on which any Orthodox hierarch should be basing his reasoning on.

    All this points to just how Classically Liberal Orthodox persons in western civ. tend to be, no matter whether they see themselves in the Progressive or Traditionalist camps...

    1. @ Jake No I am not a paraglegal, Ijust found that on google trying to answer the question of whether the religious exemption is tied to the official beliefs of the religion one is tied to. I agree with you and found it fascinating how this law is directly related to Protestant ecclesiology. it is not something I had ever checked into before.

    2. @ Jake One thing to consider though is that while Roman law was not based on anything Jewish or Christian, nevertheless St Paul used the rights that went along with his Roman citizenship in ways that supported and were consistent with his own calling and ministry. Priestly freedom, the freedom of the spriitual father in directing the individual struggle of the spiritual child is not based in freedom of conscience, but nevertheless it is not non-existent. For instance- the synod of bishops puts forward a general rule of fasting for their jurisdiction - but the priest does not ask the bishop every time he sets a discipline that is either more lenient or more strict than this rule. There really is an area of freedom here. See for instance canon 102 of the Council of Trullo. This pastoral applications of the medicines for healing sin is something very different than freedom of conscience. " For the whole account is between God and him to whom the pastoral rule has been delivered, to lead back the wandering sheep and to cure that which is wounded by the serpent; and that he may neither cast them down into the precipices of despair, nor loosen the bridle towards dissolution or contempt of life; but in some way or other, either by means of sternness and astringency, or by greater softness and mild medicines, to resist this sickness and exert himself for the healing of the ulcer, now examining the fruits of his repentance and wisely managing the man who is called to higher illumination." Sure the synod of bishops have some responsibility to try to restrain superstition running rampant in the church, but it is not true that medicine is between the doctor and the patient alone. I would highly, highly recommend reading St Basil's rule 55 (all the way at the bottom of the page)

    3. In other words to sum up, 98% of this discussion is really socio/political in nature, and is not really focused on the question of what is needed for the healing of the mind and heart lost in sin.

    4. " To place the hope of one’s health in the hands of the doctor is the act of an irrational animal. This, nevertheless, is what we observe in the case of certain unhappy persons who do not hesitate to call their doctors their saviors. Yet, to reject entirely the benefits to be derived from this art is the sign of a pettish nature" St Basil

    5. Good morning Anna. Your right of course that "freedom" is not exclusively the purview of the Classically Liberal. However in my opinion it is very (very very) difficult for us (i.e. those of us who are Orthodox and trying not to "be" Classically Liberal moderns) to separate it from its ontological context of our culture, time and place. Sometimes words become so pregnant with connotations and meanings that are unhelpful and it's best to put them aside.

      For example instead of "priestly freedom" I would suggest "priestly duty", or perhaps "priestly economy/management". I am not a priest but I have two daughters, and yest I have the "freedom" to form and guide their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual life, but the word really does not capture much of this. Really I have the "duty", before God. I have the "obligation", and not just any obligation, the obligation of love itself. Since the only real "freedom" and choice in this life is to follow the commandments of Christ or not (i.e. it's either Christ or sin), I am bound - bound by the literal chains of the Logos Himself - to do my upmost to "manage" my children and household in the direction of God and love.

      Of course Scripture and Tradition uses just these sorts of words (icons) to signify us the structure of the God (the Father, the Son, etc.) the "economy" of salvation, and the ecclesiology of the Church. Words such as freedom, individuality, choice and the like are just not used very much and in truth are not that helpful. Such words are the currency of modernity and everything it does. We Orthodox should notice that, and start to draw the connection between such words and the ungodliness of our society/culture, and the ungodliness of ourselves as we too are creatures of this culture.

    6. I read St. Basil's rule 55, and it is so typical of the Greek/Christian synthesis of the Fathers, the "middle way" that was such a part of their culture, time and place. It recommends that we "keep our eye on the ball", the *telos* of our being, and moderate use all things only if they are useful in for the end of our being.

      A distinction however needs to be made with vaccines. They are not merely "private" health, they are inherently "public" health. There is no private, individualistic choice here in that the choice a person makes is for themselves AND the community - the communities - they are a part of. The choice to get or not get a vaccine is a choice for the whole body (i.e. the persons household, work and school, local community, even national and international humanity itself). This is just all part of the nature of viruses, vectors, and vaccines, and it is where an indivdualistic Classically Liberal "my body, my freedom, my religous interpretation, my choice" thinking utterly fails to account for the *reality* of the choice.

      Thankfully, our hiearchs of every jurisdiction largely see this truth and are starting to clarify not only the relationship of Orthodox theology and praxis to the Classically Liberal concept of "religious exemption", but of our relationship to vaccines as a *community*, as a Body who are responsible to one another in love.

    7. Making this issue of vaccination into some kind of moral action of love or hate is not Orthodox at all. Vaccination is not a moral, but a medical issue. Love is first of all love of God and certainly what is driving the vaccination campaign is not love, but a false idea of love based in an atheistic mindset. As a community we are called to bear one another's burdens - which means that those who fear the disease and those who fear experimental vaccines are to learn to live together in peace and Christian faith. We are called to look at our own sins, and not get involved in blaming or pressuring others to conform to our idea of what is good for everyone, especially when it is based on so little knowledge. We are called to be humble and not think that we know what in reality is still uncertain. The largest sin in this whole mess is pride of mind.

    8. Anna, read St. Basil's Q55 again, he certainly speaks to the diverse moral aspects of disease and medicine. If I were to bring a firearm to Holy Liturgy, and that firearm accidentally discharged harming another person, or just rightly causing "fear" in them, I would be morally responsible. If I drive on the left, proceed on a red light, or drink and drive, I am morally responsible. It does not matter if pagan, atheists, or satanists invented firearms or the rules the road, I am morally responsible in a Christian way.

      If I knowingly choose to not be vaccinated from a deadly pandemic, and at the same time I assert my "right" to worship in community, or even go to school/work/grocery store thereby exposing (which in fact leads to the death and/or harm) to others, I am morally responsible.

      Orthodoxy is not Protestantism Anna. We don't come together in community in such a way that we are still radical individuals, standing alone with our God and our own sins, sort of huddled together so that may selfishly benefit from each others presence in some personal piestic way - such an act can only occur when the person and cosmos has been de-sanctified into what Fr. Stephen Freeman calls a "Two Story Universe" and metaphysical split between matter and spirit is the de facto mode of the believers piety. The tragic fact is this is *exactly* the case for so many who worship and commune at Orthodox church's in the west...

    9. Your whole argument rests on the unproven premise that the vaccines are actually effective and safe. And that "the professionals are an unwavering source of dependable information." Both of these are highly debatable and to ignore this and assert that not getting vaccinated is morally wrong is just being simplistic about the scientific data that is out there. Also, if God is not just "out there" but present in and interpenetrating every bit of matter and energy in our universe, and if therefore life and death, sickness and health are a matter of His providence not merely impersonal godless physical laws, then we are morally accountable to the church community if we start commending ourselves and each other and all our lives unto a vaccine instead of ultimately unto God. People are morally accountable to the community for debasing and deriding those who believe differently than they do about which experts and which medicines to trust. They are morally accountable to the community for pushing people to sin against their conscience as if their own conscience and knowledge is perfect and others is wrong. Where is the humility and where is the love in this?

  20. Hi Jake,

    I’ve seen you reference the need for consistency in those who are averse to vaccines developed with aborted fetal cells when it also comes to use (or aversion) of various medicines, cosmetics, food additives etc. developed with/tested on using aborted fetal tissue.

    I agree with this. I claim ignorance for past use of such items (thank God He forgives for sins of knowledge and ignorance!), but now that I know what I know, I want to be a consistent Christian. I think rather than writing it off as impossible, however, perhaps we can begin to try to attain to that. Just like with other aspects of the purity of our soul, we make progress over time, but also try to do so with haste! Perhaps that is the route our Lord desires us to take.

    Artificial flavors can’t be very healthy for us anyways, right? And fortunately, when it comes to non-covid related standard vaccines, most appear to have ethical alternatives. Also, It appears that not all modern medications that are currently being claimed to have been tainted by aborted fetal tissue may actually be tainted. See this article if interested.

    With love,

    1. Good morning Leo,

      I could not open that link, possibly because I run a quite restrictive edge security device that helps me keep unsafe and inappropriate web content out of my home. Regardless I agree with you that it is very difficult to even make a determination as to what is what in modern medicine from an (Orthodox) ethical judgement. Modern medicine is so technical, and so complex, that even physicians and others trained in it only have a small picture and understanding of anyone aspect of it.

      This is not to say that we should not try. I am very sympathetic to a "Bendict Option" approach, but we have to understand the complexity of the issues involved (e.g. with vaccines, that they are not a "private" choice only - they are in truth a "public" choice for the community around you) and not be tempted by simplistic approaches (i.e. a simplistic "slippery slope" ethic, or a demand for public health authorities to be strictly consistent and be black and white - any complexity being a sure sign of bad faith on their part) that miss the mark.