Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe vote against gay marriage amendment

John Nixon writes in his newletter:

Despite a clear statement that

Marriage is only conducted and recognized in the Orthodox Church as taking place between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriages are a contradiction in terms. The Orthodox Church does not allow for same-sex marriages (,

Greek Orthodox Senators Olympia Snowe and Paul Sarbanes (the latter having been named a “Model Greek Orthodox Christian” by H.A.H.E.P. Bartholomew I) have voted today against the constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

One wonders who is giving them pastoral guidance on how their faith should impact their public service. Click here for the roll call vote in the Senate.


79 thoughts on “Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe vote against gay marriage amendment”

  1. Jim, on a personal level I am sure your concern for the poor is genuine and authentic, as it should be. So is mine. So is Dean’s I would venture. I’m just not interested in rehashes of the liberal agenda that, all too often, does precious little for the poor on either an individual or social level. Social conservatives like me just don’t buy the sell anymore.

    Part of this is my own experience of course. I helped establish what became the largest private foodshelf in Minnesota. The church in Minneapolis still cooks for AIDS patients monthly. Who where the chief antagonists? The liberal poverty lobby. It took personal intervention by the conservative mayor of St. Paul (and now the Republican Senator of MN) to call off the dogs.

    It’s the same with abortion. For all the talk of crisis pregnancy, all the help services are run by pro-lifers. Pro-choice help stops at the back door of an abortion clinic.

    Like I said, I don’t buy all the claims of compassion and concern from the left. Too many empty words. Too many specious ideas hiding behind them. I don’t know how else to say this except that I don’t believe that the left cares for the poor. Some liberals do obviously, but not the political and ideological left. They just say they do.

  2. But then in what sense does the political and ideological right manifest concern for the poor, and for many other issues? Where I live, the agenda of the right is 1) lower taxes; 2) less of most any public service; 3) fewer limits on business; 4) the anti-homosexual legislation or initiative du jour. (Not much on abortion, since that’s fought more at the federal level.)

    That’s about it. It’s libertarian economics combined with whatever socially conservative concern is popular at the moment. Without debating the merits of the libertarian agenda, I’ll just say that it’s not clear to me how it helps to support the poor, the sick, or anyone who is not already doing well.

    For example, where I live the right has actively supported cutting or eliminating the state health plan, that provides health coverage to working but poor families, many of whom live in rural areas and exist barely at the poverty level. Again, using tax money to pay for someone else’s health care is certainly not consistent with libertarianism. It is true that tax money can be wasted. But it is also true that if you’re going to have a health program, it requires funding.

    And thus for any particular social issue, where I live the solution of the right is to lower taxes, cut services, and replace the services with rhetoric, some kind of ineffective or crippled program, or no program at all.

    And for the right in my neck of the woods, the main sin is to vote to raise taxes, advocate raising taxes, or suggest raising taxes. There simply is NOTHING worse than this. I mean, you could vote for abortion, homosexual rights, and gay marriage, and they won’t like you. But if you vote to raise taxes you will be denounced and villified from one end of the state to the other — even if you’re a Republican.

    But in the minds of many of the local Christians here, this is all consistent with the gospel. And thus we have to ask what effect association with the political right wing has on the theology of believers who align themselves with it.

    As a kind of perverse recreation, I like to listen to the local “Christian” station’s talk radio program. From listening to this program, I have discovered that Jesus doesn’t like labor unions, but He does like corporations, facts that I must have missed in my reading of the gospels. I also discovered that a true Christian opposes immigration, and that all Mexicans should be returned to Mexico, by force if necessary. Of course, even the Holy Family at one point had to flee to a different country, and then there are all those verses about compassion for “the stranger.” But to the person of faith, those are not relevant. And the poor . . . well, the poor simply are not mentioned. The Bible is filled with talk about the poor, but the true Christian is unmoved by it, and the topic simply never comes up.

    So pardon me if your skepticism about the left is matched by my skepticism about the right. The liberals do indeed advocate and rehash the tired old solutions, many of which, as you say, do precious little for the poor. But at least they are not actively working to dismantle the programs and protections that remain.

  3. Jim, you neglected to mention that besides being rabidly pro-Republican, Jesus also subscribes to “Guns ‘n Ammo” magazine.

    Kidding aside, in regards to Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe, can one disagree with or disbelieve any one article of faith (whether Orthodox or Roman Catholic) and still consider themselves a member in good standing? There are those who truly love their faith but consider it an act of violence against their own intellects to adhere to tenets they don’t believe. I realize that Eastern and Western traditions differ regarding birth control, for example, but I know many devout RC’s who simply don’t believe that its use is “evil” within marriage. Should they be excommunicated from the flock?

    Perhaps the senators don’t even disagree with Orthodox policy on marriage but simply on what the most effective and just policies regarding it should be or even what the proper rule of the federal government is in social issues.

  4. Josh’s post is a good example of the poor signal to noise ratio we are getting on this thread (and the blog in general). Let’s look at it for specifically Orthodox content, and barring that for anything resembling traditional Christian content:

    “Jim, you neglected to mention that besides being rabidly pro-Republican, Jesus also subscribes to “Guns ‘n Ammo” magazine. ”

    Since I don’t read Jim’s posts, I would assume that Josh was goaded into writing this crude and offensive statement. Still, Josh is called as a Christian (assuming he is a Christian – if not, why is he posting?) to rise above it.

    “in regards to Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe, can one disagree with or disbelieve any one article of faith (whether Orthodox or Roman Catholic) and still consider themselves a member in good standing?”

    No Josh, you can not. You can not believe that you should be allowed to kill your neighbor (whether born or unborn) and be a good member of the Body of Christ. You can not believe that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony (that word “Holy” is in there for a reason) is a minor thing in one’s life, or societies, and be a good member of the Body of Christ. Don’t take my word for it, read what the Bishops have to say about it here:
    But this is a given – any traditional Christian already knows this.

    “There are those who truly love their faith but consider it an act of violence against their own intellects to adhere to tenets they don’t believe.”

    Here, one can sympathize a bit with Josh because we as sinners are often unwilling to do the violent and painful cutting out of our own sinful will in loving submission to His Will. But that is not really where Josh is coming from though, he is really saying that his sinful will does and should have first place, and it is a “violence” against his personal integrity to believe things against his will like “Christ rose from the dead”, or “love your (born or unborn) neighbor”

    “I realize that Eastern and Western traditions differ regarding birth control, for example, but I know many devout RC’s who simply don’t believe that its use is “evil” within marriage. Should they be excommunicated from the flock?”

    Since I am unfamiliar with Latin theology on this, I could not say. Perhaps it is a fair question for the “Roman Catholicism Today” site. Why is Josh asking it on the “Orthodoxy Today” site?

    “Perhaps the senators don’t even disagree with Orthodox policy…”

    Holy Matrimony, a Sacrament of the Church, is reduced to the term “policy”. What more evidence do you need of a secular and anti-Christ outlook/thought process?

    “…on marriage but simply on what the most effective and just policies regarding it should be or even what the proper rule of the federal government is in social issues.”

    Now here is the most substantial thing Josh has to say, but not for the reasons he thinks. No doubt he is right, that Senators Snowe and Sarbanes are confused about the just – they obviously are not willing think with the Just (our Just God) on these issues, instead going with some small and vaporous notion of the just, no doubt the inconsequential justice of men. Why? But that is not the question Josh is really posing here. Josh is not wondering why the Senators are against the Church, against the Bishops, against the Truth of God. He is actually questioning that Truth itself, and wanting us to seriously consider the Truth as nothing along with him. Which would be his prerogative if this was the “Apostate Today” site, but it is not.

    So Josh’s post, from an Orthodox and/or traditional Christian standpoint there is nothing-notta-zipo. It is almost all noise, and contributes nothing as to how Orthodox Christian’s are to think about and respond to Senators Snowe and Sarbanes.

    Question: Does a reader know of a site that discusses cultural issues within an Orthodox Christian context? Perhaps a moderated site where people are given reasonable boundaries (I am thinking of something like – but they however stick with doctrinal issues only)?

  5. Christopher:
    I am speaking not only about the Orthodox stance on social issues but on all matters relating to dogma and doctrine, whether it’s the presence of Christ within the Eucharist or the role of Mary in the salvation of man.

    I’m not sure what the expectation is: for us to say, I don’t believe A=B, but the Church says A=B, so it must be so and I will therefore agree to this truth? Isn’t this a lie?

    Let’s take another example: drugs. I’m firmly opposed to them and it’s well known by anyone who knows me. Let’s say that the official Church position is that drug abuse is a sin and should not be encouraged by their legalization. Now let’s say that I have a friend/loved one who is dealing with this addiction. Would I be thus sinning by not turning them in and instead tried to help them in some other way (paying for therapy, counseling, etc.)? After all, what does it serve to believe in the criminalization of drug use if I won’t follow it up in practice?

    If you believe this, you have an extremely narrow and myopic view of Christian charity.

    My point regarding Senators Sarbanes and Snowe is that as Orthodox Christians, they probably believe in the ideal (!) of one man, one woman united for life. I’m sure they are good husbands and fathers and have many virtues. That they don’t believe that amending the Constitution is the best way to save marriage does not mean they are reprobates.

  6. Josh you ask a good question at the end but let me address first things first. You ask:

    “I’m not sure what the expectation is: for us to say, I don’t believe A=B, but the Church says A=B, so it must be so and I will therefore agree to this truth? Isn’t this a lie? ”

    Yep, it’s a big fat lie that the person who says this is living. They are living their own self-willed truth (i.e. A does not = B when the Church clearly teaches A=B). Let’s take the issue at hand. This is what the Church says about marriage (taken from the Bishops statement):

    “The Orthodox Christian teaching on marriage and sexuality, firmly grounded in Holy Scripture, 2000 years of church tradition, and canon law, holds that marriage consists in the conjugal union of a man and a woman, and that authentic marriage is blessed by God as a sacrament of the Church. Neither Scripture nor Holy Tradition blesses or sanctions such a union between persons of the same sex.”

    Now, if that is not what the person believes, then they are not a member of the Body of Christ in good standing. They are thinking/living their own lie – which possible because of their God given freedom (that “terrible” freedom as the Fathers put it). However, they are not following the Truth on this.

    Drugs: I am not sure what, if any, is the Church teachings on this. Perhaps you can choose another example where the Teaching is explicit – or inform me as to what it is here. I will say this, as one who has dealt intimately with drug and alcohol abuse, I thank God they are illegal. Without the righteous punishment of the state, I know several people who would have continued down that perditious road. However, I am willing (God help my unbelief – the part of me that is not willing) to listen to the Church on this issue if you or anyone else knows what it is.

    You ask:

    “After all, what does it serve to believe in the criminalization of drug use if I won’t follow it up in practice? ”

    It serves nothing. Action follows belief. You would be living a lie if you do not follow it up in practice.

    You say:

    “My point regarding Senators Sarbanes and Snowe is that as Orthodox Christians, they probably believe in the ideal (!) of one man, one woman united for life.”

    Really, what’s your evidence? The evidence I have before me indicates that they don’t – they voted against it.

    You say:

    “I’m sure they are good husbands and fathers and have many virtues”

    What does that matter? Does the good man get into heaven? How do you define “good” here? The man who leaves people alone, does not impose “his will” on anyone, believes all people are equal, does not hurt anyone – is this the good man you are talking about? If so, this man does not get into heaven – unless, unless he ALSO submits his own will to God and takes up his cross and follows Him. Following Him means believing in and following His Holy Church. This means following the Holy Teaching and Tradition of His Holy Church. This means, well, you know what it means.

    You say:

    “That they don’t believe that amending the Constitution is the best way to save marriage does not mean they are reprobates.”

    This is true. They could have a serious disagreement about means. However, amending the constitution does the job without harm to anyone. So they better have a good plan, and they better be able to convince the Church that they are right. And, most importantly, this plan better be compatible with the Church and not part of say, a collectivist ideology, or some other anti-Christ philosophy. Like the Bishops say:

    “As heads of the Orthodox Churches in America and members of SCOBA, we speak with one voice in expressing our deep concern over recent developments. And we pray fervently that our nation will honor and preserve the traditional form of marriage as an enduring and committed union only between a man and a woman.”

    So, what is their plan? I bet they don’t have one. I bet they were towing the liberal (that “Godless party” of which they are a part of) line. I bet they have no intentions of helping our nation “honor and preserve the traditional form of marriage” because they don’t believe the nation should. But that is libertarianism, or secularism, reductionist egalitarianism, or some such other Godless philosophy. That is not the teaching of the Church. Yep, in all likelihood (though I would examine evidence to the contrary) they are reprobates. You see, you are right. It is much more likely that they believe A=C, and not A=B as the Church teaches. This is why they are reprobates.

    Given that, how do I, as an Orthodox Christian, think about and respond to their moral error?

  7. “I bet they were towing the liberal (that “Godless party” of which they are a part of) line.”

    Christopher, in the off-chance that you read this, you may want to note that Sen. Snowe is a Republican, and amend your diatribe accordingly.

  8. The point isn’t whether one is Republican or Democrat. The point is examine the ideas behind the positions. Comments like “Guns and Ammo” don’t do any good either, except perhaps to show how far discourse can degenerate.

    Further, the only criticism of Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe is the support of partial birh abortion, a grievous moral error according to Orthodox moral tradition. Whether they happen to be good husbands, mothers, whatever their personal character, is not relevant to this discussion.

    Avoid emotionally charged phrases like “act of violence to their intellects.” Argue instead the reasons why you think the position is right or wrong. Phrases like this never say much except except to hammer home the fact that disagreement exists. But we already know that otherwise we would not be discussing it.

  9. If my attempts at humor seem offensive, apologies.

    In regards to this Amendment, the Senators did not vote to allow gay marriage or even civil unions. They simply did not act to expressly forbid it. There’s a subtle but very important difference.

    I am guessing as to their motives, but as Republicans, perhaps they simply feel it to be within the jurisdiction of the States to decide on matters of marriage as it is with many other matters, whether it’s gambling or the sale of alcohol on Sunday. Perhaps they felt that the Constitution is not the proper vehicle for creating federal social policies, preferring to vote against it should the issue arise within their own states.

    The role of morality in law is more complex than is acknowledged. Alcoholism is considered a sin (St. Paul includes “drunkards” in his list of those who shall not inherit the kingdom of God), but it does not stand to reason (at least to me) that a faithful Orthodox believer must be a prohibitionist or that intoxication within one’s own home is cause for a jail sentence.

    Would you conclude that an Orthodox believer must not only abstain from excessive alcohol consumption himself but must
    lobby for the criminalization of alcoholic beverages and boycott stores who provide them? Considering the enormous toll alcoholism takes on the health care system, not to mention the number of deaths every year from DUIs, this is not a minor issue and I think the analogy to the social tolerance of gay unions is worth mentioning.

  10. Josh, your assertion that Snowe (as a republican) is more concerned about states rights than basic Christian morality is without evidence. What is your evidence?

    My assertion that she is a reprobate is based on this and her votes on the American holocaust – which she supports. She is fundamentally confused about her Orthodoxy, or she is not really Orthodox. Josh, are you Orthodox?

    Also, all law is morality. It is a moral judgment to punish murders, and to stop at red lights (anarchy = bad, order = good, red lights = good). Your analogy breaks down at the beginning because God made wine to “gladden men’s hearts”. Wine, like many things in this world, can be used for both GOOD and BAD. Sodomy, can ONLY BE USED FOR BAD. Josh, can you name one instance in Holy Scripture or Holy Tradition where homosexuality is encouraged or tolerated in moderation (like wine)? Just one Josh, and that will prove that your analogy holds and perhaps that, as you say “The role of morality in law is more complex than is acknowledged.”.

    Since you will not be able to (I know, it is was a loaded question ;). I would ask you Josh, what is it about the teaching of the Church, and the Truth of God, that bothers you in these sorts of cases where His morality is relatively simple? I would ask you to examine why you wish to push a false “complexity” into a simple ‘problem’. Does your faith (you don’t seem to be Orthodox to me – correct me if I am wrong) recognize ‘sin’, and if so, is sin complex or simple according to your faith?

  11. I recently read an interesting piece by Fr. Thomas Hopko, who I believe was a professor or dean at an St. Vladimir’s Seminary. In particular, he says that “The Orthodox Church can never be identified with this world. . . .The narrow way which leads to life forbids Orthodox Christians to follow the destructive way of identifying Christ’s Church with any particular social, political, economic or military policy.”

    He also notes that “There is no infallible Orthodox Church teaching on social, political, economic and military policies. This is an area for legitimate differences of opinion among people of good will, including Orthodox Christians.”

    Dean echoed this with his remark that ” . . . Orthodox Christianity rises above and transcends all partisan political agendas.”

    Now it seems to me that what has been implied in this discussion in several posts is that the Orthodox church can in fact be identified with the Republican party, the Democratic party having been dismissed as the “godless” party. In addition, two U.S. senators have been branded as “in all likelihood . . .reprobates,” because of their votes on certain social policies.

    Though I’m not Orthodox, I try to inform myself on issues related to the Orthodox church. It seems to me that some of the extreme comments that have appeared in this discussion are really not consistent with Fr. Hopko’s remarks, but rather reflect what he calls “the destructive way.”

  12. I am not Orthodox, and sin is not simple to me.

    You have mentioned somewhere (I believe it was you) that you enjoy engaging in the sport of boxing. Now, the physical action of pummeling someone until they are unconscious would seem to me to be an evil action. However, this same physical action becomes less an evil when consent is involved with both parties, even more so when hatred (racial, class, or otherwise) is not playing a role in the act itself. So intent, lack of malice and consent have just reduced an IDENTICAL physical act (that of physical assault) from a greater evil to a lesser one (or even a moral good as I’m sure you would argue).

    Same act, different degrees or levels of moral culpability.

    Also, all law is NOT morality. Law exists to protect the common good. It’s against the law to jaywalk in some areas. Certainly you would not argue that it is also somehow a sin?

  13. Josh, since you say you are not Orthodox, but do seem to admit some sort of vague definition of sin, is it safe for me to assume that you are Christian?

    I do enjoy the sport (sport being the operative word here) of boxing, but I have not been a boxer myself for a number of years now. I am too old-and-slow now to even be allowed to fight in an Golden Gloves amateur event, even if I wanted to! I am however a competitive Jui Jitsu player (Japanese wrestling – Jui Jitsu translated means “gentle art” or “gentle way”). Interestingly, my boxing coach from years ago said something that I believe to be the essence of the martial arts. He said “You can not control the other guy until you control yourself”. In other words, your feelings, thoughts, and lastly your physical actions all have to be disciplined. St. Paul of course uses the athlete as a prototype and example in Holy Scripture. You are right, I don’t consider competitors in sports, whether boxing, or football, or badminton, to be doing anything “immoral”, but they can be misused like so many things in this fallen world. The majority of the men and women I wrestle with are police officers and corrections officers (jail guards) who use Jui Jitsu to safely restrain violent criminals.

    I see your point though, and Holy Tradition would agree with you that intent (lack of malice) does play a part in discerning if an act is immoral. However, where in Holy Tradition, or Scripture, does the act of sodomy or homosexuality come under the rubric of a “lesser good”. Never, it is always an evil. And that is the point is it not, that Revelation (which we believe to be the very Truth of God) can not abide with these sorts of abominations, even as we love the sinner. So, if your point is that an allegedly Orthodox senator has the room in her faith to say to herself “because the intersection of Faith and action, Faith and the public good, the Truth of God and law, is a complicated and difficult place to be, I can vote against the FMA – besides, secularists and liberals don’t really like it because it is against their faith” then your argument just does not hold up. As the Bishops stated clearly, such thinking is not part of the Faith. Now, it might hold up in your faith/philosophy (whatever that is – you have not said), but that begs the question as to why you are making such an argument on a site called “Orthodoxy Today”?

    As to jaywalking – the “public good” is a moral argument. To say something is good or bad is to have a morality, whether it is public or not. All law IS morality. Perhaps we need to go to the dictionary to define the words “good”, “bad”, “morality”, “law”, etc. And yes, it is a sin to knowingly jaywalk if you know that it is illegal and against the public good (or more likely, against your own good since you are more likely to get run over by a bus when you do not follow the traffic laws and step out onto the street – I bet getting run over by a bus does not feel too good!!:). Do you wish to have a discussion of how ‘sin’ is defined and thought about in our Holy Orthodox Faith?

    By the way if you are struggling with the notions of morality, public and private, tolerance, etc. I recommend almost any of the books by J. Budziszewski (J.B. is sometimes seen linked to in the advertisements on the home page of this site – coincidently named “Orthodoxy Today” if you did not notice). As a good Aristotelian (and a Christian) he will help you sort out your thoughts if nothing else.

    So here we are, post #63, and instead of discussing how an Orthodox Christian should think about and respond to the obvious errors of two allegedly Orthodox politicians, all the electronic ink has been spilt dealing with secular and anti-Christ arguments as to why the error might not be an error after all, at least to the secular and anti-Christ mind. Hum, I am starting to see a pattern here…

  14. Jim,

    Nowhere has it been argued that the Orthodoxy way is Republican, although it has been argued that present day Republicans are much closer to the received moral tradition on the life issues (abortion, infanticide, euthanasia) than present day Democrats. This in no way implies a full moral congruence, and no one has argued that it does. I don’t recall anyone saying either that Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe are “moral reprobates.” If they did, they are wrong.

    On the other hand, it would be a mistake to read Fr. Hopko’s warning as an endorsement of moral and intellectual relativism, which, to my ears, is Dean’s position at times. There is such a thing as a hierarchy of values (are you listening Josh?) where things we might disagree with are left alone knowing that the cure can be worse than the disease. In other words, Fr. Hopko’s warning does not imply that all moral issues have the same public gravity and leaving one wrong untouched does not mean we are disallowed from touching on other wrongs.

  15. OK, I found the reprobate reference. Christopher, it’s too strong a term, and worse, it’s not accurate. Also, it avoids the fact that in other areas these Senators have voted for the public good.

  16. So now Fr. Hopko is being said to support liberal and secular thought against the Faith?! That’s amusing…

    Fr. Jacobse, I have said that Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe are moral reprobates. Looking up the definition of reprobate (,I see that one of the definitions is “to foreordain to damnation” which is not what I meant (that’s what Calvin meant ;). I did however mean it in the sense of “to condemn strongly as unworthy, unacceptable, or evil”. I of course stand by my assertion that Sens. Sarbanes and Snowe are reprobates by evidence of their votes in favor of the American holocaust, and against the FMA. These votes are clearly unworthy and acceptable to any traditional Christian, and are evil.

  17. There comes to mind a more difficult question which, although admittedly purely speculative, is interesting nonethless to even someone with an Orthodox pov:

    There are certainly marriages that are for whatever reason never consummated. What should the Orthodox position be towards gay couples who, whether because of physical handicap, illness or choice simply choose to never engage in the “behavior” but nevertheless wish to share their lives together and receive some legal safeguards to protect a relationship that they cherish above all others? On what moral basis are those to be refused?

    Are the legal benefits of marriage only to be granted when sexual activity is guaranteed? We would have to deny marriage licenses to the impotent or to the castrated (by birth or accident).

    So the question remains: what should an Orthodox Christian layperson do regarding the two politicians? The way I see it, they have really only 2 options:
    1)Weigh the relative importance of this issue against other issues as voted upon by these same politicians and decide that this issue outweighs all others. By all means, if one reaches this conclusion, then they should vote against them in the next election as their conscience dictates.
    2)Determine that this issue is of lesser importance and vote for them again, though perhaps expressing one’s personal disapproval of their vote by sending them a letter.

    The Orthodox clergy on the other hand have the option of a public reprimand, or discipline up to and including excommunication. (Not too many options for either group, unless I’ve missed something obvious?)

    What you seem to imply is that no politician is permitted to in any instance vote in a manner that opposes the dogma or decree of the Orthodox Church. Is not the Church then forced to take a very explicit and narrow view on every aspect of government policy, from taxation to war, from guns to gambling to state legislation of all matters personal and private?

    Whatever one’s view of fornication between an unmarried couple is, I’m not sure the Church would be wise to force their faithful to push for the criminalization of such conduct upon pain of excommunication. Likewise, I would venture to say that the Church as an entity may have a moral view on the Iraq war but may permit some disagreement on its relative merits within its members.

    I will agree that the Church is acting within its power and right to distance itself from members who have acted atrociously and grossly misrepresented Her. If that includes excommunication or the refusal of Communion, then so be it. However, it should be executed after much deliberation and only rarely. Abortion could be one of those issues, but I’m not persuaded that gay marriage is a threat to the public good in such a way that such actions would be mandated.

  18. Well, the fact the term has this ambiguity of meaning is reason enough to avoid it given the emotional wallop it holds. How is your reader supposed to interpret the term and thus your meaning?

    I think Jim’s implied objection has some validity (even as he deftly recontextualized the emotional power of the term). It’s a bit over the top.

  19. Josh, have you read “The Clash of Orthodoxies? Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis?” It is one resource that can answer some of the questions that you have.

  20. I will look it up… I certainly am not an advocate of anarchy and for those of use who are not saints, we unfortunately need civil law to negatively motivate us from committing wrong.

    The question of the effectiveness of law in creating moral men is intringuing, however, as is how encompassing the law must be to help accomplish that.

  21. On your last point, you would enjoy the book “Statecraft as Soulcraft” by George Will, particularly his discussion on how law also shapes moral sensibility (just as moral sensibility shapes law).

    Also, where the book “The Clash…” really shines is explaining how heterosexual marriage can be on the only functioning marital relationship in a culture. Your questions presume that homosexual marriages can be modelled on heterosexual monogamy. You have to examine this presumption more deeply. Start here: Redefining Marriage Away. (One of the authors, Robert P. George, is the author of “Clash…”)

    Further, you have to take into account that if homosexuals should be allowed to marry because because the prohibition against homosexual marriage violates their civil rights, then anyone who is prohibited from alternative marriages (bigamy, etc.) can make the same claim. And they will.

    BTW, you can order “Clash…” off the main page.

  22. Fr. Jacobse,

    I would be open to any term that would correctly describe the moral status of voting for late term abortions, and against the FMA, when said person is an alleged Orthodox Christian. Honestly, the terms I can think of do not sound “pretty” to secularized ears. Since I don’t read Jim’s posts my response by way of proxy was unfair.


    Skipping over your “life boat” ethical situation of the marriage status of eunuch and such (perhaps that’s what this thread has been missing all along, a good and hearty discussion of the marital status and potentiality of such a union, of the eunuch! HA! ROFL!;), I want to thank you for staying on topic and your good summary of possible reactions to the Senators. I would add that I would think some response by the laity to their Clergy and Bishops is in order. I think we should let the Bishops know that we do support them in upholding Orthodox Tradition and teaching, even in the public square. Ultimately, I believe it will have to come down to the Bishops publicly excommunicating those who so clearly and publicly repudiate the teaching of the Church. Here, one almost longs for the structure of the Roman Curia that has the institutional momentum to overcome sinful doubts and despair (Almost, I said almost ;).

    To add to Fr. suggestion about your questions surrounding Faith and action in the public square, why do you assume that is the Faith that is narrow and unbending? As you put it

    “Is not the Church then forced to take a very explicit and narrow view on every aspect of government policy, from taxation to war, from guns to gambling to state legislation of all matters personal and private?”

    Have you ever read Rawl’s “A Theory of Justice”, or any other serious modern liberal account of how we are to deal with ultimate questions in our relations with each other? The Church, having true anthropology – that is knowing what man really is scientifically – is the truest way to live and relate to each other. To me, it is reductionism materialism and the liberal political theories of man that grow out of that philosophy that is truly narrow, truly stifling to mans freedom and potentiality in both “public” and “private” life. They reduce all of man and morality to a Kantian category and/or Epicurean tragedy. As G.K. Chesterton said (of orthodoxy with a small “o”, meaning traditional Christianity):

    “People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom — that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”

    Josh, do I gather from your use of “Church” with a capt. that you are a traditional and/or liturgical Christian (meaning Latin or perhaps Anglican)?

  23. Christopher writes: “So now Fr. Hopko is being said to support liberal and secular thought against the Faith?!”

    Not, not at all. However in my reading of him, it seems to me that he would disagree with your view of the relationship between faith, social policy, and politics. But read on:

    Fr. Hans writes: ” . . . it would be a mistake to read Fr. Hopko’s warning as an endorsement of moral and intellectual relativism . . .”

    Yes, you are quite right. In my reading he’s making a very subtle and mature argument that I interpret thus: the Church must avoid identifying itself with any particular ideology or party. But the Church must also not accept a relativistic approach, in which *any* ideology is acceptable. In addition, the Church must not become “other-worldly,” in which it is insulated and separate from the world. In other words, he advocates a relationship to the world that insists on the values of the church, but does not explicitly mandate how those values are to be instantiated in the larger society.

    This may be a little off-topic, but on a personal note, this is an example of the kind of thinking that makes me respect the Orthodox approach to faith, even though it is not my tradition.

  24. Christopher:

    I was actually raised Roman Catholic but have found myself leaning away from it for many reasons. However, I still appreciate its consistency in matters of morality and its ideals which, while unattainable for most of us, seem to strive for absolute purity of charity and faith. The danger is that it does indeed approach legalism at times.

    I understand the Church’s requirement of celibacy, and I believe it does enable many to live lives of greater service. Ideally, that is. Unfortunately, this requirement has had many negative effects on those in the clergy who lack the psychological and emotional maturity to live up to this ideal.

    Same thing for birth control. If you argue that sex is for procreation, the Church’s opposition to contraception is a reflection of its consistency in these matters.

    Perhaps my problem is that there is nothing wrong with maintaining ideals. I don’t believe, however, that to fail to live up to those ideals is always evil or sinful. Perhaps just less perfect. The virtue of generosity and the vow of poverty is a great thing for those who have made such a sacrifice for the good of others, but I don’t think that to “have” is bad, either.

  25. Father Andrew Greeley had a very interesting column last week entitled, “When Catholics can vote for a pro-choice candidate”, on the issue of how morality should influence our choice in the voting booth. See

    Greeley argues that Catholics and other Christians may vote for John Kerry as long as they are not voting for him specifically for his pro-choice stance, but have made their choice balancing and carefully weighing a number of moral issues.

  26. And according to the article, that is not just Fr. Greely’s position, but Cardinal Ratzinger’s as well.

    But Dean, to be fair, one should note that that principle works both ways. For example, Christians could also vote for Bush as long as they are not voting for him specifically because he led us into a needless, inept, and expensive war, massive deficits, undermining of the environmental laws, and so on.

  27. I’m hoping someone can answer this:

    Gay couples can leave their belongings to each other via a will (as can anyone, including a woman to her cat). They can achieve joint ownership of property. A power of attorney can grant certain decision-making powers to their partner as well.

    Let’s say we invented a new “civil contract” called a “McGoogle Contract” (no laughing please), and let’s make all of the above achievable through this one contract, including the survivor benefits, etc.

    So now instead of getting a will, filling out a POA form, etc, all they have to do is share this lovely new convenient “McGoogle Contract” (we’re not calling it marriage). Nothing has changed in essence. Yet, many would be opposed to this new contract.

    Am I missing something? On what grounds is the objection? All we’ve done is eliminate some paperwork. Granted, they would not be eligible for ALL marital benefits, such as Social Security, etc. Certainly this is about more than protecting SS, though.

  28. I’m not a lawyer but it seems that there is no funtional difference between your super contract and the laws governing heterosexual marriage. All current statutes would have to be rewritten to reflect the authority of the super-contract, a monumental task that would take years to flow through the courts. It would make more sense just to redefine marriage to include homosexuals.

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