Saturday, January 22, 2022

A strange "pro-life" message

Someone, please tell me what this emboldened bit means. I read it as a bodily autonomy argument for murder of the unborn and fail to see any other reason to include such wording. Anyone have another read on it?

(GOARCH) - His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Introduction & Prayer

March for Life Rally

National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Today, we come together in solidarity with our Brother Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America.

We affirm the gift and sanctity of life – all life, born and unborn. As Christians we confess that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.  Every life is worthy of our prayer and our protection, whether in the womb, or in the world. We are all responsible for the well-being of children. We are their “keepers,” and cannot shirk from our accountability for their welfare.

At the same time, we also affirm our respect for the autonomy of women.  It is they who bring forth life into the world.  By His incarnation, our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ assumed human nature, through His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary. She freely chose to bring Him into the world, and God respected her freedom. We can and must make the case for life, both born and unborn, by our own example of unconditional love.

We march not for coercion.

We march with compassion,

With empathy,

With love.

And with our arms extended to embrace all.

Let us pray to the Lord. Lord, have mercy.

Lord, You have granted us the opportunity to offer these common prayers in unison and have promised that when two or three gather in Your name, You are there also. Fulfill now, O Lord, who was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of Your All-Holy Spirit, the petitions of Your servants. Remember, Lord, the people here present and those who are absent with good cause. Have mercy on them and on us according to the multitude of Your mercy. Remember, O God, all those whom we are not able to commemorate by forgetfulness or because of their multitude since You know the name and age of each, even from their mother's womb. For You, Lord, are the helper of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, the savior of the afflicted, the haven of the voyager, and the physician of the sick, the protector of the voiceless. Be all things to all, You who know all people, their requests, their households, and their needs. For You are the Giver of Life, bringing each person from non-being into being, sealing each person with love and sanctity. May we come to the light of Your Truth and glorify You, the Giver of Life, together with Your Father, and Your All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


  1. The key part is not what is emboldened here in red. The key part is "we march not for coercion". In other words, we're not here to make abortion illegal.

    This is probably the best March For Life speech I've heard.

    I'm still waiting, though, for an Orthodox bishop at the March to quote these words of Christ: "woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

  2. My take:

    Archbishop Elpidophoros here is speaking as a modern "Greek American", who as most of them (he thinks this way as well) believes there needs to be no fundamental "conflict" between the anthropological goods of secular/modern/enlightened culture, in this case *equality* of men/women, *autonomy* of women as such, and all men/women/transhumans in their *individual conscious*. It's a particular intellectual, theological, and spiritual answer to "Christ and Culture", and while it does have some distinctive "Orthodox" elements, is not different in its essentials than its "liberal" theological cousins in Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. It intellectually acknowledges sin as such, but demphasizes it, emphasizing instead a kind of universalism (i.e. "arms extended to embrace all") in a conscious effort to combat what it believes is the "legalism" of those within and without Orthodoxy who are in "reaction" to the sexual revolution and the Cartesian anthropological revolution in western society of the last 500 or so years.

    In other words, it tries to hold together the cultural/human advantages of the current spirit of the age (and they exist) with the Gospel. This kind of theological liberalism has a long track record in the west, and this Orthodox version of it is repetitious - for example it fails to pass on this (liberal) faith because because the children of such believers realize they don't need a mere "ritual" Christianity that adds nothing substantial to of secular goods/beliefs. Love, empathy, understanding, solidarity, etc. are highlighted, and the Cross, suffering, ascetical repentance, obedience, all but go missing.

    In the end it's impotent, though normative for bourgeois Greek American's who are ritually/habitually "Orthodox". Like the Jesuits in RCism, many on the EP's synod think that it is effective and seem to only think/speak/act in this way. Now that the EP/GOA are becoming more ecclesiastically isolated from other Orthodox, I expect it to get worse, as it is a kind of late stage spiritual exhaustion before full on least that is how it has played out in Protestantism and RCism...

  3. Legalized abortion (baby-killing) is pro-choice, not pro-life. Why should everybody else's life be protected by coercion (if necessary) except the life of the unborn child? I am appalled at this speech and extremely concerned for what it says about how things are faring with the largest jurisdiction of Eastern Orthodox Christians in the U.S. (Additionally, I am mystified as to why the March for Life would allow a pro-choice speech.)

    1. If abortion was illegal, then of course the Church upholds the government's laws. That's straight out of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. The Archbishop would probably justify government laws against abortion, if they existed.

      So this is not a political speech. There is absolutely no criticism of the government here. Rather, this is a speech specifically addressed to Orthodox Christians, placing the actual social responsibility of human life on the Church, rather than the government. This type of social responsibility is exemplified by organizations such as Zoe for Life. In contrast, the typical March for Life speeches are specific political criticisms and condemnations addressed to the government and U.S. justices for not outlawing abortion. We usually hear an "altar call" to Political Religion in those speeches, and the political cause is unfortunately rationalized as "faith in action". Indeed, the hallmark of Political Religion is the demand for government coercion.

      "We march not for coercion" is a statement against Political Religion. In my mind, this is much more in keeping with the mission of such organizations as Zoe for Life, whose stated ministry is "providing care, support, and education to empower women".

    2. Appalled? Why? Business as usual in some places.

  4. By the way, Met. Tikhon of the OCA's speeches at the March for Life were in this same spirit a few years back when supposedly when Fr. John Jillions was writing them for Met. Tikhon in his role as chancellor. Sometimes Met. Tikhon seems to rebuke this spirit, but other times seems to embrace it, for example when he wagged his finger at everyone who saw Fr. Robert Arida's essay posted on "The Wonder" blog for what it was...

  5. Joseph says:

    "..."We march not for coercion" is a statement against Political Religion."

    Eh, if only it were so. The Archbishop/GOA and the EP's synod regularly indulge in "Political Religion". There stance on Climate Change, consumerism, etc. is always recommending this or that political stance from "world leaders", this or that climate change conference to take this or that particular pragmatic/tax/wealth direction.

    Your indulging in wishful thinking here. It's not an accident that the Archbishops stance just happens to line up with an integrationist, theologically liberal, and typically politically liberal Greek-American positioning on the sexual revolution and "Christ and Culture", any more than it is an accident that the Archbishop/EP/GOA stance swings into full on "Political Religion" on other economic/social issues...

    1. On other economic/social issues, most likely yes, the Archbishop/EP/GOA does engage in Political Religion.

      My argument here is that on this one he's not. If indeed he really is "Pro-Choice" as some accuse, then I doubt he would have shown any support at all for the March for Life. Of course it's doubtful he has U.S. citizenship and the option to vote anyways.

      I find it interesting, though, the verbal punishing he's getting for taking a non-coercive stand on abortion rights. It just shows you how politicized the March for Life really is. Can anyone find anything theologically wrong with what he said? Instead, it seems the attacks against his speech are just unwarranted political insinuation.

    2. Well, the March to Life IS Political Religion, as is all politics beyond the trivial as it all implies a theological anthropology - an answer to "what is anthropos" and following, what is man's good, who lives and who dies?". If his intention is what you are hypothesizing - to go there and speak an alleged Orthodox "non coercive" anthropology (to who is not clear), well I'm not even sure such a thing even exists within Orthodoxy. The Cross, repentance from sin/nothingness, and the failure to do so leading to God's Judgement, has essential *coercive* dimensionality, even if Orthodoxy does not adhere to a simplistic "legalism". If he is not interested in a legal mitigation (admitting making abortion illegal is not an outfight "solution") then he is either naive about what the March to Life is about or trying to be subversive and promote that liberal "big tent" universalism (empathy, accaptance, etc.) and the March for Life are participants are right to criticize this conscious rejection of what the effort is all about.

      Like I said, he is not *really* trying to preach on the difference between the Eschaton and living in history, the subtleties of 'free will' vis-a-vis the Gospel and the ascetical tradition, or even on the difference between morality and mercy within Orthodoxy. No, this is speech is the natural outcome of the current Greek-American version of theological liberalism and its various modern emphasies...

    3. Jake, the autonomy of the person is elemental to Christian anthropology. Human free will is a reflection of the image of God. Adam and Eve were not created as robots or coerced cattle, but rather as persons with free will. Yes, they chose poorly. However, the Mother of God chose life, and it was precisely her choice that restored human freedom to the world.

      Freedom only comes when we choose God. The other choice we have is sin, and sin only brings death. Choosing abortion is a clear example of this, because not only does the unborn infant die, but those involved suffer a tragic spiritual death unto eternal damnation.

      Coercion is certainly an effective tool to prevent people from committing grave sins, but the downside of coercion is always that it doesn't respect the autonomy of the person. As such, the Good News of the Gospel is not that Christ has brought coercion into the world to prevent people from sinning, but rather that sin and death are overcome. The Good News is that we actually have a choice in Christ. We can choose not to have an abortion, finding the needed support in our churches. Yet even if we have failed at this, we can still choose to find forgiveness and liberation from our sins in Christ.

  6. Enh, why have laws at all? Can't we just ask people to look at the saints and be nice?