My brothers and sisters in Christ, recently I read an article in the October 9th issue of Time magazine regarding the new abortion pill, RU 486. There are some points well made in the article with which I agree. For example, I agree that the availability of RU 486 could possibly increase the incidence of abortion. I agree with the statement that women who use RU 486 will have to confront the product of their aborted child since the abortion takes place at home making abortion more "emotionally wrenching." However, there are also many points in the article with which I disagree.
First, let me start by reminding all Orthodox Christians that the Church is ardently, Pro-Life. In the first century writings of the Didache (the teaching of the Twelve Apostles) and the Epistle of Barnabas, it is clearly stated that the Church forbids abortion. St. Basil in his 8th Canon states "Those who give potions for the destruction of the child conceived in the womb are murderers; as are they who take the poisons which kill the child." Canon 91 of the Quinisext Council of 691 A.D. clearly affirms St. Basil's 8th Canon. In keeping with this Tradition, the Church condemned Roe vs. Wade and in 1976 the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress issued the following statement, "...The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder; that is, as a premeditated termination of the life of a human being... Decisions of the Supreme Court and State Legislatures by which abortion, with our without restrictions, is allowed should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life." Other Orthodox jurisdictions made similar statements. Letters were sent to President Nixon by our hierarchy denouncing Roe vs. Wade to no avail.
As Orthodox Christians we profess that all life comes from God. The fetus growing inside its mother's womb is an individual genetically distinct from that of its mother. The fact that the mother carries this unborn person in her body does not make it her property to do with whatever she wants. Remember, all life comes from God. That being the case, God bestows upon us a trust to take care of all unborn life, as the growth of a child in a mother's womb is a gift from God.
Of course, the most common argument used by anyone who is pro-abortion is that women have the right to do with their body whatever they wish. However, when their decision results in another persons death, then that right to do with their body whatever they want, is lost. Using the same argument, a person could strap a bomb to their body and, in a crowd, detonate it, killing himself and the others around him. Any person reading this statement would say this man was crazy, he was not thinking of others, he was only thinking of himself. And yet, it is true, that those who seek abortions think not of the independent life within them but only of themselves. Those children killed by abortion are, indeed, sacrificed to the modern pagan cult of self.
The sad reality is our society teaches us to put ourselves before others at the expense of others. For example, the Times article features a young, healthy, thirty-six-year-old lady who was described as happily married, already the mother of one child (a four-year-old boy) who discovered that she was pregnant. Apparently, she and her husband were renovating their home which involved the use of caustic chemicals. Their lives were described as "too busy" to bring another child into the world, especially a disabled child! (All life is sanctified and redeemed disabled or not!) Who knows what effect the chemicals had on the developing baby inside her? So she decided, with the support of her husband to have an abortion. She aborted her child using RU 486 because it was "the most convenient" way to have an abortion. Where is this devaluation of life resulting from our self-centered society leading us?
My brothers and sisters in Christ, it is true that only since the acceptance of abortion have euthanasia and assisted suicide taken center stage in our society. Both euthanasia and assisted suicide started with the wishes of the "person." Now, the question is, what would the person of wanted if he or she was "normal" or in "their right mind." Remember, Hitler's euthanasia program started with those who were handicapped and look at where it ended. Currently abortion has already taken the lives of some estimated forty million children simply because they were not wanted.
The Times article makes it clear that, in the eyes of society, these unwanted, aborted children are not referred to as persons. It is interesting to note the fact that in the Time article, the aborted baby is referred to as a "blood clot," "the fetal remains," "the embryonic tissue." It seems that the life carried in a women's womb is so depersonalized. Nowhere in the article is the baby aborted referred to as a person! The pro-abortionists believe that the fetus is not really "fully human" at all. My brothers and sisters in Christ, in Orthodox Theology, no one is fully human! To become "fully human" we must first achieve union with God. To be "fully human" we must undergo spiritual growth so that we may become Saints. This is what it truly means to become "fully human." One cannot say that the fetus in the womb is of lesser value than any other person for the fetus has a soul whose desire is to become "fully human!"
Remember, "...And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb...For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy..." for Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 1:41ff). Sanctity of life begins when life is conceived and is not dependent on whether that life has been affected by birth defects. The souls of all, birth defects or not, yearn to become "fully human" and each person must have the right to do so!
What does all the above mean for us, who, soon will be voting for a presidential candidate, one of whom is pro-abortion and one of whom is pro-life? Remember, you cannot be pro-abortion and be an Orthodox Christian. Does this mean that, as Orthodox Christians, we have to support the candidates and the political parties which are pro-life?
As Orthodox Christians we have an obligation to know where candidates stand on specific issues such as abortion. A Democrat who is pro-abortion is no better then a Republican who is pro-abortion. Often voting for one candidate over another is the choice of the "lesser of two evils" as one candidate may be pro-abortion, but the other who may be pro-life might also be in support of euthanasia. If we are going to vote for a candidate along strictly party lines, then we have, at the very least, a moral obligation, to try to change the stand of the political party to which we belong if that stand is contrary to our Orthodox beliefs. Otherwise we should scrutinize the stand of politicians before we vote for them, to become informed voters so as not to compromise our Orthodoxy in the voting booth. We as Orthodox Christians cannot be silent, passive participants in the moral chaos which is gripping our country.
I know of some who will not participate in the political process. Many will not vote because they see the political process as evil in itself. However, this is wrong! We as Orthodox Christians have a Christian obligation to participate in the political process. Remember by our silence, we condone the evil which befalls us. This is why we as Orthodox Christians must cultivate political discernment when it comes to candidates and what they stand for. However, on the other hand neither can we be active politically, divorced from our Orthodox faith. Our displeasure with a moral stand of a politician, which is contrary to the teachings of the Orthodox Church, must be made known to that politician in writing. Will it make a difference? Probably not. However, we have a moral obligation to try.
Many women, in tears and in much pain, have confessed to me that they have aborted "their precious children." Our Lord was there through His priesthood to give spiritual guidance so that the healing of the souls of these women may take place. I see, as a priest, the result of the moral breakdown of our society and the pain it inflicts. In the end, I often wonder how we will be greeted by the souls of those who are aborted. When they ask us why we allowed this tragedy to occur what will we say? I often wonder, who will be there to ease the pain of the souls of those women who have had abortions? I often pray for the souls of our beloved and aborted children, martyred before their birth. May they, and their mothers, find peace in the promise of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who said "Let the little Children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." (Luke 18:16).
Fr. Dean Kouldukis is pastor of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Hawaii. Reprinted with the permission of the author.