"Dealing with the Assault on Christ's Church - Official and Unofficial" first appeared as the President's Message in the Society for St. John Chrystom - Western Region newsletter and has been edited for publication.i
Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity. (Ps 132: 1)
Who of us has not become keenly aware by now of the assault on Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church by those under the un-Godly spell of political and social correctness, either those officially in power or those in society who are simply opposed to the teachings of Christ and His Church? Such attacks on our Apostolic Church teachings should be opposed by all orthodox Christians, and, of course, especially by those who are members of the Society of St. John Chrysostom.
At first glance, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, seems Christ-like and in conformity with Christ’s Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 33). After all, the possibility of caring for the physical health of all is certainly demanded by the Corporal Works of Mercy. However, on closer inspection this official legislation is at the expense of the care of the soul, the Spiritual Works of Mercy. For example, a recent analysis of the implementation of the ACA reveals “. . .that many health insurance plans will subsidize abortion-on-demand.”ii
A Pocket Prayer Book for Orthodox Christiansiii clearly outlines the nine ways of participating in another’s sin: by counsel, command, consent, provocation, praise, concealment, partaking, silence and/or defense. One group of courageous Roman Catholic Sisters, The Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, in Denver, Colorado, clearly understands the clear meaning of participating in others’ sin. They recognize that even by signing a ‘self-certification form’ that they are a religious group and thus exempt from the Obamacare provisions, they would be “. . .complicit—because then others will make sure that their employees have coverage. (The insurance company pays for it, with some help from the government.).”iv
The participation in supporting immoral healthcare is not limited to government. It has been promoted by numerous ‘woman’s rights’ groups.v However, a recent interview I heard by a woman’s rights activist goes egregiously beyond this. She basically calls for an ecclesiology based on mere populism. The commentator claims, with no citation, that 97% of Catholic women use contraception, therefore this figure should govern Roman Catholic moral teaching (and, by extension, the moral teaching of all the Apostolic Churches- Eastern Catholic, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox as well). Obviously she has no understanding that, as I wrote in a previous Light of the East messagevi, “the proper teaching role of the Churches is for those specifically ordained to teach, the bishops and the priests in union with them, and the laity, as Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov (1998, p. 226)vii writes, do so as "defenders of the Faith." We each have our own part to play.” Both the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)viii and the Orthodox Bishops in North America have strongly condemned the egregious parts of the ACA. Our SSJC members and indeed all Orthodox Christians may want to act on the advice of the Orthodox Bishops to the faithful “. . .to contact their elected representatives today to voice their concern in the face of this threat to the sanctity of the Church’s conscience.”ix
A caveat, we have to treat all persons with love and dignity. In the spirit of ‘hate the sin but love the sinner,’x we must pray with love for those compliant with the ACA. We know that only Christ is without sin (Heb 4: 15). As the Eastern Orthodox Trisagion prayer for the Dead reads “there is no man who liveth and sinneth not.” Thus, we do not make sin the standard for moral teaching, but rather invite all to heed Christ’s injunction to “sin no more.” (Jn 5: 14) Furthermore, we must always be ready to forgive - following Christ’s admonition: “Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him.” (Lk 17: 3-4)
* SSJC-WR Light of the East, 2014 Winter, President’s Message , edited for www.antiochian.org, www.orthodoxytoday.org and Antiochian Archdiocese Dept of Chaplain of Chaplain & Pastoral Counseling Facebook page (listed under Archpriest George Morelli PhD)
iii Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. (1956). A pocket prayer book for Orthodox Christians. NJ: Englewood. (popularly known as the Little Red Prayerbook
v Those advocating abortion as a “human right” claim in part it is because women have the “right to make decisions regarding their own body.” Of course, this is partially correct to the extent that their decisions promote their physical, psychological and spiritual welfare. However, what is that missed is they do not have the right to infringe on the human rights of others (i.e., in their unborn baby). The fact that a perpetrator killing a mother and her unborn infant can be charged with a double murder, but a woman can legally kill her own unborn infant seems to be the height of moral and legal contradiction and hypocrisy. It is egregiously illogical.
vi Morelli, G. (2013). Toward Healing Apostolic Church Disunity: Speaking with One Voice. Light of the East 4, 2.
vii Evdokimov, P. (1998). Ages of the spiritual life. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press
x The Holy Scriptural root of the aphorism: “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaites, which I also hate.”(Rev 2: 6)
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.
Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)
Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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