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Abortion and Ecumenical Relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches

Frank Johnson

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Leadership 100 and Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church (GOC) American Archdiocese recently honored Greek-American U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe at its 14th annual conference by giving her an "Award for Excellence." GOC Leadership 100 and the GOC Archbishop similarly honored Greek-American U.S. Senator Sarbanes at the conference two years ago. Voting records show that Senators Sarbanes and Snowe are among the most pro-abortion senators in the U.S. Senate. I am concerned about these awards for many reasons, but with the election of Roman Catholic Cardinal Ratzinger to become now Pope Benedict XVI, I have yet one more reason to be concerned--and that is the welfare of ecumenical relations between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Roman Church of the West.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, stated back in July of 2004 (see 1st article below) that Catholic Communion should not be served to pro-abortion elected officials, such as Senator Kerry. Now as Pope Benedict he has reaffirmed his strong, uncompromising pro-life stance (see 2nd article below). Surely the new Pope Benedict must frown upon the practice of the Greek Orthodox Church in America of not only serving Orthodox Communion to pro-abortion Senators such as Sarbanes and Snowe but also going even further and rewarding them for their "Excellence."

It is ironic that even as the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Constantinople is working hard to improve relations between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, the American Archdiocese of his Greek Church jeopardizes those relations by awarding abortionists, thus dismaying Pope Benedict XVI who is clearly and unequivocally pro-life and anti-abortion.

Fortunately for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and for the welfare of Orthodox-Catholic relations, there are jurisdictions of Orthodoxy in America that firmly adhere to the 2000 year old Orthodox Tradition of being pro-life and anti-abortion. One such jurisdiction is the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), whose leader, Metropolitan Herman, demonstrates by his words and by his actions that he and the Church he leads are clearly and unequivocally pro-life and anti-abortion. We can see this stance manifested in Metropolitan Herman's Archpastoral Messages on the Sanctity of Life and in his leading the pan-Orthodox contingent at the annual March for Life in Washington, DC, each January - http://www.wfn.org/2005/01/msg00183.html

Hopefully, the new Catholic Pope Benedict XVI will see in the OCA that there are Orthodox Christians who are as strongly pro-life and anti-abortion as he is. So it is that the OCA and other such Orthodox jurisdictions that are firm in their moral convictions about abortion may yet save Orthodox-Catholic ecumenism.

See the following articles on Roman Catholic response to pro-abortion Catholic politicians.

From NewsMax.com: Cardinal Ratzinger [now Pope Benedict XVI] Orders Kerry Communion Ban

In a private memorandum, top Vatican prelate Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told American bishops that Communion must be denied to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion. While never mentioning Sen. John Kerry by name, the memo implicitly aims at the pro-choice Catholic Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate.

Ratzinger's ban is broad and includes all other pro-abortion Catholic politicians who are defying the church's ban on abortion.

Read the complete article.

From the Orlando Sentinel (link closed, new link from currentevents.com): Pope Vows to Uphold Orthodox Church Doctrine

May 8, 2005

ROME -- Pope Benedict XVI pledged Saturday to resist attempts to water down Vatican teaching, indicating he willuphold Pope John Paul II's unwavering stands against abortion and euthanasia and will work to guarantee obedience to Roman Catholic Church doctrine.

Benedict outlined his vision of his papacy in a homily during a ceremony in which he took his place on a marble-and-mosaic throne in the ancient Roman basilica of St. John in Lateran.

The ceremony is the last in Benedict's formalassumption of the papacy.His 30-minute homily, read in a calm, confident manner, reflected his experience guarding doctrinal orthodoxy anddefending papal authority for two decades under John Paul.

The pope "must not proclaim his own ideas, but ever link himself and the Church to obedience to the word of God, whenfaced with all attempts of adaptation or of watering down, as with all opportunism," Benedict said.

"That's what Pope John Paul II did, when . . . faced with erroneous interpretations of freedom, underlined in anunequivocal way, the inviolability of human beings, the inviolability of human life from conception to natural death," Benedict said.

"Freedom to kill is not a true freedom but a tyranny that reduces the human being into slavery," the pontiff said to ringingapplause from the congregation.In Vatican teaching, references to defense of life "from conception to natural death" refer to its bans on abortion andeuthanasia.

Marshaling his arguments, Benedict said: "The pope isn't an absolute sovereign, whose thoughts and desires are law. Onthe contrary, the ministry of the pope is to be the guarantor of obedience to Christ and to his word."In his former role of Vatican's watchdog on doctrine, he earned a reputation as a strict interpreter of church teaching who silenced dissident theologians.

Arriving at and leaving the ceremony, Benedict was cheered by thousands of Romans who lined a boulevard as he droveby in an open-topped black limousine.Standing and waving to the crowd as the car slowly traveled down the street, the pope seemed intent on establishing arapport with his flock."Dear Romans, I am now your bishop," Benedict said, concluding his homily.

Frank Johnson is an Orthodox Christian layman who lives in Orlando, Florida.

Posted: 23-May-05

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