Abby Johnson testifies before Texas Senate on Planned Parenthood’s profiting from sale of fetal remains

Warning: The following testimony deals with the graphic issue of abortions, the dismemberment of fetal tissue after abortions, and the harvesting and disposal of fetal remains. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director, testified before the Texas State Senate.

If you are reading this and have had an abortion, I am not judging you at all. I love you and pray for you, as does the whole Orthodox Church every day. My fervent hope is that you will not despair of your decision, but will unite yourself all the more deeply to the Church who loves you. If you are not an Orthodox Christian, Google “Orthodox Christian parish” and find the one closest to you. Stop by for a service sometime and revel in the peace. You are always welcome in the Lord’s temple. The Lord still loves you and always will, and He wants to offer you the healing your soul needs. If you were coerced by your partner or parents into getting an abortion, the Lord understands the truth of what happened. Nothing you can ever do will destroy or take away His love for you. If you are struggling after having had an abortion, please Google your nearest Orthodox Church, and, if you want, feel free to stop by, call, or talk to a priest there. That is a core part of their job, to counsel people in grief and desperation. They will not turn you away. God bless you and keep you, and bring you healing of soul and body. You are a beloved child of God, and always will be.

You are not alone in your struggle. Every year thousands of women who have gone through abortions regret their decision and feel deep pain over it. Abby Johnson has dedicated her life’s work to helping post-abortive women in the recovery and healing process. She worked for Planned Parenthood for many years and saw the evil of the institution from the inside.

Here is most of Ms. Johnson’s testimony:

My name is Abby Johnson, I am a former Planned Parenthood abortion clinic director. I worked directly for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast affiliate and ran one of their abortion centers. My testimony is going to specifically talk about the procedure of harvesting fetal tissue and organs. It is not true that [at PP] fetal tissue is only harvested through DNA procedures. Fetal tissue is harvested through manual vacuum aspiration… and vacuum aspiration procedures. The vacuum aspiration procedure is twenty-seven times more powerful — the suction — than a household vacuum, so it is not always a D&E [“dilation and evacuation” abortion procedure] that is performed. .. After the abortion is performed, the fetal tissue, the aborted child, is suctioned into a glass container. That glass container goes into a lab called the POC lab, the poc lab, that officially stands for ‘products of conception’, however in Planned Parenthood the joke was that it stood for ‘pieces of children’. The tissue would be dumped into a glass baking dish, a little water would be squirted in there, and the POC technician who is not medically trained in any way would then begin pulling the parts of the baby away from each other and, depending on what was ordered by the company that we [PP] were going through — we personally went through Amphioxus Cell Technologies and Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast– and we would pick out depending on what was ordered, whether it was eyes, liver, the entire body, babies are always dismembered during abortion procedures, whether it’s through D&E or an aspiration procedure. It is very rare to get intact tissue unless you are doing a procedure over sixteen weeks’ gestation. Many times they would also be ordering extremities — legs, arms, the calvarium, which is the skull, the head. We would piece these parts and then we would put them into a bio-hazard zip-lock bag. That would go into a Styrofoam container that had dry ice in it. That would go into our freezer that was already in the POC room. The freezer was jokingly called the nursery inside of our abortion facility, that was where all of the babies were held until a company…would come and either take them for bio-hazard waste [disposal] or we would ship them to the Amphioxus Cell Technology company. Generally, in our studies that we did, we received $200 in compensation per baby that was sent. I can assure you that there is no additional charge for collection, or storage of fetal tissue. The only additional expense would be shipping and that’s between five to ten dollars per specimen, not $200. That [the $200] is sheer profit for Planned Parenthood, and let’s just be a little generous here, the Planned Parenthood in Houston off of the Gulf Freeway, their abortion quota is to perform 75 abortions every day, 6 days per week. Let’s be conservative and say they only charged $100 per specimen, and let’s say that only 50 of the 75 women consented to harvesting this fetal tissue. That would be $100 per specimen, 50 specimens per day would be $5,000 per day, multiply that 6 days a week, we’re talking about $30,000 per week that Planned Parenthood was collecting from fetal tissue. Extrapolate that $120,000 per month. That is certainly not recouping cost from the abortion procedure or anything relating to fetal tissue research…

You can hear Ms. Johnson’s full testimony which begins at 2 hours and 30 minutes into this video. You can follow and ‘like’ Ms. Johnson’s page on Facebook here, and link to her professional website here.

Just to give you an idea of how much profit Planned Parenthood makes off the sale of fetal remains: if we take Ms. Johnson’s figure of (a low estimate) of Planned Parenthood making only $100 per fetal specimen, harvesting 50 fetal specimens a day, results in a profit of $5,000 per day, multiply that by six days a week (how many days PP operates) and you have $30,000 per week. Multiply that by four and you have $120,000 per month, with a grand annual total of an astonishing $1,440,000 — this is how much profit an average Planned Parenthood clinic could make per year off the sale of fetal remains. Yes, that ugly Planned Parenthood building closest to you could well be making over one million dollars per year off the sale of fetal remains. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, friend of President Obama and daughter of the late Democratic Texas pro-abortion governor Ann Richards, makes a whooping annual salary of $400,000 per year — the same salary as the U.S. President himself. In just three months of one clinic’s sale of fetal remains, Richards’ annual salary is paid for.

Planned Parenthood’s website lists over 700 clinic locations across the United States .If we multiply the annual fetal remains profit of $1,440,000 per clinic by 700, the result — the total annual profit Planned Parenthood obtains from the sale of aborted fetuses’ remains — is a staggering $1,008,000,000 — yes, over one billion dollars. In this March 25, 2006 Washington Post article by Darragh Johnson covering Cecile Rechards, then the newly-appointed president of Planned Parenthood, the article claims that the organization operates “850 health-care clinics”, meaning that, if we take the earlier figure of an annual profit per clinic from the sale of fetal remains of $1,440,000 and multiply it by 850, the total annual profit Planned Parenthood obtains from the sale of aborted fetuses increases to a numbing $1,224,000,000.

Commemorating St Elizabeth the New Martyr and those murdered with her

I am leaving a glittering world where I had a glittering position, but with all of you I am descending into a greater world – the world of the poor and the suffering.

-Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanova to her group of nuns in 1909, following her husband’s 1905 assassination when she decided to take the veil.

Princess Elizabeth was born in February 1864 to Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse and by Rhine, a German principality, and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom. A noble and thoroughly English granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria, Elizabeth was widely praised as the most beautiful princess in Europe, and the beloved older sister of Russia’s last Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Nicholas II’s consort). In 1884 Princess Elizabeth married Grand Duke Serge (Sergey), fifth son of the assassinated Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) and brother to the then-reigning Emperor Alexander III (1845-1894). She thus became by marriage the aunt to Nicholas II, her sister’s husband, when Nicholas and Alexandra married in 1894.

The young Elizabeth (known as Ella to her family) and Alix (the future Empress Alexandra) with their grandmother Queen Victoria.

The young Elizabeth (known as Ella to her family) and Alix (the future Empress Alexandra) with their grandmother Queen Victoria.

Shortly after her marriage, Elizabeth voluntarily chose to become Orthodox, horrifying her Lutheran and Anglican Protestant relatives and delighting her brother-in-law Emperor Alexander III. Her beloved grandmother Queen Victoria supported her in her decision. Having no children of their own, Ella and her husband raised the young orphaned children of one of Serge’s relatives as their own.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna with her husband Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, son of Emperor Alexander II Nikolaevich.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna with her husband Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, son of Emperor Alexander II Nikolaevich.

Grand Duke Serge served his nephew Nicholas II as the Governor General of Moscow; in this capacity he was, like his father Alexander II in 1881, literally blown to pieces by a nihilist terrorist in February 1905. In the Kremlin at the time of the murder, Princess Elizabeth rushed outside and somehow summoned the strength to collect parts of her husband’s body which lay strewn about in the snow. She then visited her husband’s killer in prison, imploring him to repent of his crime so that her nephew the Emperor Nicholas II might show him clemency. The killer refused and was subsequently hanged.

Giving up her luxuries and possessions to the poor, the widowed Elizabeth became an Orthodox nun, devoting the rest of her life to serving Russia’s poor and needy, and endowing the Martha and Mary House in Moscow as a women’s shelter and home for the poor. This house and attached convent served all classes of Moscow society, and became a center for charitable noblewomen and wealthy matrons to serve Russia’s poor.

Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna as a nun

During World War I, along with her sister Empress Alexandra and her nieces the Imperial Princesses, Sister Elizabeth tended tirelessly to wounded soldiers. She was so beloved among all segments of Russian society that, upon coming to power in 1917, the godless Bolsheviks initially did not dare touch her.

Ultimately the Bolsheviks exiled Sister Elizabeth to the Urals, closed down her convent, and on July 18, 1918 — a day after they murdered her sister Empress Alexandra and her entire family — murdered her, her loyal friend and fellow nun Varvara (Barbara) and several royal princes by throwing them alive down a mine shaft in Alapaevsk. The martyrs sang Church hymns as they lay dying in the mine shaft, so the Bolsheviks threw burning brushwood and grenades down the mine shaft.

Elizabeth’s remains along with those who died with her were soon recovered by the anti-communist White Army, and sent first to the Russian expatriate community in China, before ultimately finding rest in the Russian church of St Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a church she and her husband had endowed in memory of his mother Empress Maria Alexandrovna, Emperor Alexander II’s consort. Grand Duchess Sister Elizabeth was glorified (canonized) as a new martyr by the Russian Church Abroad in 1981 and in Russia itself in 1992. Grand Duchess St. Elizabeth’s saintly reputation is such that the Anglican clergy of Westminster Abbey even erected a statue of this illustrious princess (German-British by birth, Russian by marriage) in July 1998, eighty years after her death, on the west facade of that illustrious church. May the Holy New Martyr Saint Elizabeth, and Saint Barbara murdered with her, pray to God for us all!

Please see below the sources I used for this short article. They are well worth reading in their entirety!

A signed photograph of Grand Duchess Elizabeth from 1894, the year her brother-in-law Emperor Alexander III died and was succeeded by her nephew by marriage, Nicholas II, with his consort Alexandra, her sister.

A signed photograph of Grand Duchess Elizabeth from 1894, the year her brother-in-law Emperor Alexander III died and was succeeded by her nephew by marriage, Nicholas II, with his consort Alexandra, her sister.

Sources:

Christopher Warwick. Ella: Princess, Saint and Martyr. John Wiley & Sons. 2006.

http://www.amazon.com/Ella-Princess-Martyr-Christopher-Warwick/dp/047087063X

“Elizabeth the New Martyr”. Orthodox Wiki.

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Elizabeth_the_New_Martyr#cite_note-6

Father Demetrios Serfes. “Life of the Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth”. Lives of the Saints.

http://www.serfes.org/lives/grandduchess/life.htm

Metropolitan Anastassy. “Life of the Holy New Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth”. Orthodox Christian Information Center.

http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/duchess.aspx

Rita Childe Dorr. “1917 Interview with Grand Duchess Elizabeth”. Alexander Palace. Alexander Palace Time Machine.

http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/annainterview.html

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia Seeks Abortion Ban in Russia

Patriarch Kirill 3

Under the Soviet Union, Russia became the first country in the world to decriminalize abortion, and during the Soviet period abortion was widely used as a primary form of birth control. I have known a number of older Russian woman who, tragically, had multiple abortions. In the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the revitalization of Orthodoxy in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, the abortion rate remained high as the period of shock privatization saw many Russians endure terribly low wages, high unemployment, high alcohol consumption, etc. The Russian Orthodox Church steadfastly urged reforms to the adoption system, state assistance to unwed mothers, and, above all, the preservation and revitalization of marriage. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia has addressed this issue in numerous homilies and at many conferences. In January 2015 he appeared before the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, urging lawmakers to act to reduce the number of abortions and ensure stable population growth.

Published here by RT on 22 January 2015 is the Patriarch’s address:

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has called upon MPs to begin a campaign against abortions, starting with canceling state sponsorship for the procedure and aiming at a total nationwide ban.

If we manage to cut the number of abortions by 50 percent we would have stable and powerful population growth,” Patriarch Kirill said, speaking before the Lower House on Thursday. This was the first ever speech of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church before the State Duma.

The argument that a ban would cause an increase in the number of underground abortions is pure nonsense. People have to pay money for these operations and our task is to make the price of a legal infanticide the same as of the illegal one. Taxpayers must not pay for this,” the church leader told the MPs, suggesting the exclusion of abortion from the list of services covered by the obligatory medical insurance program.

However, the Patriarch acknowledged the solution to demographic problems was complex. According to him, apart from bans and restrictions, the state must help young families with money and housing and also introduce strict ethical norms in the medical sphere, giving doctors additional stimuli to care about the life of “conceived children.”

The top Russian cleric again attacked surrogacy in his parliamentary speech, urging lawmakers to take steps to completely replace it with adoption.

In mid-November last year, a large assembly formed of lawmakers, rights activists, medical experts and members of various church-related groups passed a resolution seeking legislative changes to ban all abortions, saying human life begins at the moment of conception. The authors of the document said that although Russia ratified the International Convention on Children’s Rights in 1990, the authorities still do nothing to “protect children before birth.”

The bill brands abortions as murder and completely bans them along with contraceptives “with an abortive function” – morning-after pills and intra-uterine devices.

In October 2013, an official representative of the Russian Orthodox Church attacked abortions and surrogacy as a “mutiny against God,” and less than a month later State Duma Deputy Elena Mizulina said in a speech that the community must urgently stop tolerating abortions and surrogacy, as they threaten to wipe out the population of Russia and the world as a whole.

The move gained little support from other politicians, who argued that such a ban would only lead to more illegal abortions that are much more dangerous and leave many women infertile, only aggravating Russia’s demographic problems. Eventually Mizulina had to play down her statements, saying that she merely wanted to draw attention to the problem and start a discussion, not introduce any legislative bans.

According to pro-life activists, every year about 1 million women in Russia have induced abortions with only 10 percent of them being carried out for health reasons.

Patriarch Kirill 1

Patriarch Kirill 2

Crowned, anointed, and communed as clergy: On the coronations of Russian empresses regnant

It is well-known that in May 1896, at the last coronation of a Russian monarch and his consort, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna were both crowned and anointed by the Russian Orthodox Church’s senior-ranking metropolitan. Russian tsars had been crowned from time immemorial, but what is fascinating about this last coronation ceremony was that many of the time-honored rituals Nicholas II participated in as the monarch were rituals first observed in 1730 at the coronation of a female sovereign, Empress Anna Ivanovna.

Laurits Tuxen's 1898 Coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

Laurits Tuxen’s 1898 Coronation of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

Keeping with imperial precedent dating (according to Brenda Meehan-Waters’ 1975 essay “Catherine the Great and the Problem of Female Rule”) to Elizabeth Petrovna’s 1742 coronation, the sovereign Emperor Nicholas crowned himself, symbolizing that the autocratic power devolved to him directly from God and not from the blessing of the Church. In contrast, Empress Alexandra, as the consort and not the sovereign in her own right, was crowned directly by her husband, who briefly took off his own imperial crown, touching it to her forehead before crowning her with the smaller consort’s imperial crown. This act of the physical crowning of the Russian empress consort by her sovereign spouse closely follows Byzantine custom for the crowning of the Augusta/Βασίλισσα (see Wooley, Maxwell, B.D. Coronation Rites. Cambridge University Press, 1915), and has its first example in Russian history with Peter I’s 1724 coronation of his consort Catherine, who ultimately succeeded him as sovereign (r. 1725-27). Catherine I does not seem to have had a coronation as Empress regnant, but at her coronation as consort in 1724 she received the pomazanie, the anointing with holy chrism, following her crowning by Peter.

Crowning of Empress Maria Alexandrovna by Emperor Alexander II, 1856 - Coronation Book of 1856.

Crowning of Empress Maria Alexandrovna by Emperor Alexander II, 1856 – Coronation Book of 1856.

Nicholas II crowned Alexandra as Empress consort immediately following his own coronation. He took off his Imperial crown and touched it briefly to her forehead, symbolizing her sharing in his sacred duty of ruling Russia, and then proceeded to crown her with the smaller consort's crown.

Nicholas II crowned Alexandra as Empress consort immediately following his own coronation. He took off his Imperial crown and touched it briefly to her forehead, symbolizing her sharing in his sacred duty of ruling Russia, and then proceeded to crown her with the smaller consort’s crown.

To emphasize Nicholas’ role as monarch, in which he fulfilled a quasi-sacerdotal role as intercessor for his people before God, in keeping with his male and female predecessors the Emperor was anointed during the Divine Liturgy at the Royal Doors/Beautiful Gate by Russia’s senior-most Metropolitan. Mirroring the anointing performed at one’s chrismation, the monarch was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in the eight holy places — on his forehead, his eyes, his ears, his nose, his mouth, his breast, his hands, and his feet. Reflecting that she was not the sovereign in her own right, but her husband’s help-meet and consort sharing equally in his imperial dignity and the ultimate spiritual responsibility for governing the empire, Empress Alexandra too was anointed by the metropolitan, but only once, upon her forehead. 

The anointing of Nicholas II, May 1896, Uspenskiy Sobor, with Empress Alexandra waiting behind him for her own anointing.

The anointing of Nicholas II, May 1896, Uspenskiy Sobor, with Empress Alexandra waiting behind him for her own anointing.

The key distinction between the monarch and his consort came not even at the anointing, which was performed immediately before the Holy Gifts were administered, but in the reception of communion itself. Emperor Nicholas II, as the monarch — not, as it has been argued, due to his maleness — received the Lord’s Body and Blood directly in the altar itself. He communed directly of the Body and Blood as if he were a priest or a bishop, using his hands to take the bread and the chalice, symbolizing his spiritual equality among Russia’s senior bishops and metropolitans just this once in his life. Thus, for all intents and purposes, during the Divine Liturgy on this one occasion the monarch was regarded by the Church as a mixed person, set apart as part-priest and part-layman. In contrast, the Empress Alexandra, as the imperial consort and therefore not a “mixed person”, but nonetheless exalted over all other lay people, was the first of the laity to receive communion, but she received on the solea as did the laity, and from the chalice via the spoon, with the Body and Blood mixed together in the lay manner.

Announcement of the Coronation of Nicholas II

Announcement of the Coronation of Nicholas II

Brenda Meehan-Waters’ superb essay “Catherine the Great and the Problem of Female Rule” reveals remarkable evidence that, prior to Emperor Paul changing the Russian imperial succession laws in 1797, three of Russia’s four empresses regnant communed of the Body and Blood exactly as reigning emperors did. Meehan-Waters confirms Robert Massie’s unsourced and uncited claim in his Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (2011) that Catherine II would have received communion in the clerical manner in the altar of the Kremlin’s Uspenskiy Sobor, as well as gone into the altar area to be anointed immediately before receiving the sacrament. What neither Meehan-Waters or Massie observe is whether or not empresses regnant were anointed simply on the forehead, as later empresses consort were due to their sex, or, more likely, as reigning sovereigns, they were likely anointed as male monarchs were, on the eight holy spots consecrated with the holy myrrh during chrismation.
 
Meehan-Waters writes that, beginning with Anna Ivanovna in 1730, all Russian empresses regnant took communion in the priestly manner, performing a fundamentally male sacerdotal role — or, rather, showing that the Orthodox Church did not understand the sacerdotal role performed by the monarch at his or her coronation as an intrinsically or necessarily male one. This is extraordinary. Considering that Catherine I’s coronation as consort in 1724 marked the first time in history the Russian Orthodox Church had officially blessed and sanctified any coronation of a woman — we have no evidence that Orthodox Muscovite tsaritsas were ever crowned along with their husbands or in separate ceremonies — it is all the more remarkable that, only six years later, the Church was not only blessing a second woman as Empress regnant of Russia, but was allowing her to take communion as if she were part of the clergy, and to receive the holy anointing in the altar itself.
 
For her evidence of this great claim, Meehan-Waters cites V.I. Zhmakin’s “Koronatsii russkikh imperatorov i imperatrits 1724-1856 gg.”, (“Coronations of Russian emperors and empresses”, chronicling from Catherine I to Nicholas I), which appeared in Russkaia Starina issue 37, 1883, page 500, 517, and 522.
 
The political and theological implications for this are huge. By taking the Body of Christ in their own hands and putting it into their own mouth, and then drinking directly from the chalice containing the Blood, the three Russian empresses regnant who did this — Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II — did something that no male emperors before them had done, and no empress consorts after them would ever do. By communing as if they were priests or bishops, these empresses regnant assumed unto themselves a fundamentally male role that, strictly speaking, was utterly without solid Christian theological justification. For all intents and purposes, at Anna, Elizabeth, and Catherine II’s coronations, the Church treated these sovereign women as if they were mixed persons, part God-ordained and God-consecrated lay woman, and, astonishingly, somehow, as part priest. 
Catherine II communing at her Coronation Divine Liturgy, 12 September 1762, Uspenskiy Sobor, Kremlin, Moscow.

Catherine II communing at her Coronation Divine Liturgy, 12 September 1762, Uspenskiy Sobor, Kremlin, Moscow.

This practice of empresses regnant communing as if they were male clergymen is without firm Christian theological foundation, yet Meehan-Waters provides no evidence that any layman or member of the clergy present in the Uspenskiy Sobor objected to, or attempted to correct or stop Empress Anna or her two female successors from doing this. Instead, we have only silence, and thus, we can assume, either quiet approval or at least benign tolerance of this one woman, the female sovereign, communing as if she were a priest. The metropolitans who communed these women did not, strictly speaking, have to do so, but they did, and left no objection to history.
 
Here is the text in question from Meegan-Waters, from page 305-306 (bold emphasis mine):
 
Religious ritual, particularly the coronation ceremony, exalted the image of the autocrat. The Russian imperial coronation rite evolved during the eighteenth century, reflecting so many other aspects of Russian life introduced by Peter the Great. The Petrine imperial coronation ceremony was first performed in 1723 for the crowning of Peter’s second wife Catherine. It differed from the pre-Petrine ceremony, also based on the imperial Byzantine form, in its diminution of the role of the Church and exaltation of the autocrat. Christian coronation ceremonies usually include symbolic reminders of the priestly function of the ruler. Thus the coronation of a woman presents a problem, since she is ineligible for priesthood. However, the coronation of the Empress Anna in 1730 set important precedents in the religious symbols of the ceremony. Empress Anna was the first Russian sovereign to walk up into the holy altar — the altar set aside for the clergy — for her anointing. She was also the first monarch to take holy communion according of the rite of the clergy rather than the laity. In 1742 Empress Elizabeth followed these precedents while starting an important one of her own. She was the first Russian ruler to place the crown and the imperial mantle on herself, without the assistance and symbolic approval of the metropolitan. Catherine the Great followed the same ceremonial order, which became in the nineteenth century the fixed ritual for the Russian coronation rite. Thus the imperial coronation ceremony, which evolved during the eighteenth century and symbolically attested to the increased power of the ruler, had its origins in ceremonies designed to glorify Russia’s female rulers.
Stefano Torelli's 1777 portrait of the coronation of Catherine II, Tretiakov Gallery.

Stefano Torelli’s 1777 portrait of the coronation of Catherine II, Tretiakov Gallery.

Partners in holy and royal matrimony and equal bearers of the burden of imperial role, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra sketched as they leave the Uspenskiy Sobor in full regalia following their coronation and anointing.

Partners in holy and royal matrimony and equal bearers of the burden of imperial rule, Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra are here shown sketched as they leave the Uspenskiy Sobor in full regalia following their coronation and anointing.

Orthodox responses to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide

For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

1 Corinthians 4:15

A useful aphorism in these times is “God is love, but love is not God”. God is love — Holy Scriptures, part of 2,000 years of Church Tradition, tell us that. The Saints by their holy examples and righteous lives tell us that. The Church, in her timeless teachings reaffirmed throughout the ages and held down to this present day, proclaims across the world, in the world and yet outside of it, that God is love, but what the world takes to be love is not, and must not, be equated with God. Divine love is not an emotion, it is not a feeling. It is a reality beyond realities, it is a truth beyond all worldly dimensions. It is above all expressed in the dynamic life within and among the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, one God. It is above all approached within the life of the Church, in corporate prayer — the divine services — and private prayer in one’s home devotions to the Lord.

Today, my birthday and the commemoration of the repose of St John the Wonderworker, sometime Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco, the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States released this strong statement in objection to the Supreme Court’s July 26 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

My own personal view is that, so long as marriage (wrongfully) contains certain legal benefits, I do not object to same-sex couples receiving the protection of equal access to these legal benefits (hospital visits, pension access, etc). What I object to and am horrified by is the Court — a committee of nine unelected, partisan judges appointed by partisan presidents — assuming to itself the invented right of declaring what marriage is and is not. In declaring that marriage is something that encompasses same-sex couples, the Supreme Court has, in a 5-4 decision, voted by a narrow majority to overturn the very foundation of Western civilization in American society.

The Assembly, which represents all canonical Orthodox jurisdictions in the country and serves as a platform for all Orthodox bishops to speak publicly on issues of importance, could not have spoken more clearly on this matter. Let all those who are Orthodox hear the Assembly’s words loudly and clearly, in offer a quiet but sure witness to our neighbors that while we must and do love all our neighbors, including those who embrace the gay or lesbian lifestyle, the Church cannot and does not approve of this lifestyle because it violates two millennia of revealed Church Tradition, of which the Scriptures are one important part, and violates the Church’s iconographic teaching that marriage is not a matter of law but of divinely ordained union between men and women, expressed in the metaphor and iconography of Christ the eternal Bridegroom and the Church the eternal Bride.

Two men or two women simply cannot image this eternal iconography, and as such, cannot work out their salvation together in the life of the Church. This is why the Church teaches what it does, and why this teaching remains unchanging despite whatever is currently in “vogue” among lawmakers and politicians. The Church, as a theandric entity, exists both within and outside of man’s invented constraint of time, and thus truth, and what the Church holds to be true, is not subject to law. What is legal is not necessarily moral (see: segregation laws) and what is illegal or unpopular (maintaining that true marriage exists only between a man and a woman) is not always popular. Truth ultimately transcends law, and while law ought to encapsulate and defend the truth, centuries of human existence show that this is not always the case.

Here is the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops’ statement on the Supreme Court decision:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 2nd, 2015

Response of Assembly of Bishops to Obergefell v. Hodges

The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America strongly disagrees with the United States Supreme Court decision of June 26, Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court invents a constitutional right for two members of the same sex to marry, and imposes upon all States the responsibility to license and recognize such “marriages.”

The Supreme Court, in the narrowest majority possible, has overstepped its purview by essentially re-defining marriage itself. It has attempted to settle a polarizing social and moral question through legislative fiat. It is immoral and unjust for our government to establish in law a “right” for two members of the same sex to wed. Such legislation harms society and especially threatens children who, where possible, deserve the loving care of both a father and a mother.

As Orthodox Christian bishops, charged by our Savior Jesus Christ to shepherd His flock, we will continue to uphold and proclaim the teaching of our Lord that marriage, from its inception, is the lifelong sacramental union of a man and a woman. We call upon all Orthodox Christians in our nation to remain firm in their Orthodox faith, and to renew their deep reverence for and commitment to marriage as taught by the Church. We also call upon our nation’s civic leaders to respect the law of Almighty God and uphold the deeply-rooted beliefs of millions of Americans.

Here is the letter released by the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR):

June 26, 2015
Statement by the Chancery of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America on the Issue of Homosexual Marriage to the Clergy and Flock of the Diocese

Statement from the Diocesan Chancery on the Contemporary Question
of Homosexual Marriage to the Clergy and Flock of the Diocese

March 16/29, 2013 Martyrs Sabinus and Papas

Updated November 8/21, 2014 Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers

Updated June 13/26, 2015 Martyr Aquilina of Byblos in Syria

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that homosexual marriage is a constitutional right in the United States of America. Given the ubiquitous coverage the news media is providing on this issue it is important that our clergymen and parishioners fully understand the position of the Church in this regard.

Living in a free society as we do, we should first be thankful that we have the opportunity to practice our Orthodox Faith without inordinate interference from the government. In recent history this was not the case in Russia, and is still not the case in many countries throughout the world. In a free society all views can be shared in the public arena – both views we agree with as Orthodox Christians and those we disagree with. We call upon our flock to be guided first and foremost by the Holy Tradition of the Church in discerning whether any contemporary question is something that is compatible to the Orthodox faith. If an Orthodox Christian chooses to engage in public political discourse this should be done with moderation and with a firm intention and watchfulness not to fall into extremism. Extremism is not conducive to softening hearts or bringing others to the faith. Laymen who choose to engage in political speech should not state that they speak on behalf of the Church. Strictly speaking such an authoritative statement can be made only by a bishop or with a bishop’s specific blessing.

It should also be made clear that living a homosexual or any other sinful lifestyle is not compatible with Christianity and this has always been the teaching of the Church. That being stated, it is also crucial to state that the Church is a Spiritual Hospital and all those wishing to receive the healing freely offered by God through their repentance and God’s Grace are fully welcome. This includes those who have participated in immoral or unnatural acts of any kind as well as those who are tempted by such sins. The Church is empathetic to those who suffer in such a way and offers them support, healing, and Christian love. Those actively engaging in any immoral or unnatural pursuits cannot live a full sacramental life within the Church. However, this does not mean that we seek to drive away or ostracize those who have transgressed in such a way. Rather, we must make all efforts to draw those in such an unfortunate situation back to chastity and the opportunity to again partake in the Life-Giving Mysteries of the Church and to engage the struggle for their salvation within the parish community.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling makes homosexual marriage legal in the United States. It should be made clear that under no circumstances will the Church recognize homosexual marriage, accord it the status of traditional marriage, or bless such unions. However, this is not to state that those who have entered into such a union have stepped beyond a line from which they cannot return. The Church has always strongly condemned heresies (such as Novatianism, Montanism, and Donatism) which deny the possibility of repentance for those having committed certain sins. It is crucial that our clergymen not shy away from the position of the Church as regards the sinfulness of homosexuality and other unnatural expressions of the God-given gift of human sexuality – but it is also crucial that such statements be made with love and with a corresponding invitation to repentance and reconciliation with the Church.

We call upon all to pray for our land – that the Lord will forgive us our collective societal sins as well as our personal sins and provide us a safe haven which allows us to work out our salvation in peace.

Here is an open letter (along with several others) from His Grace Bishop Thomas of the Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, the Mid-Atlantic, given with the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America:

His Eminence The Most Reverend
Metropolitan JOSEPH
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America

The Right Reverend Bishop THOMAS
Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic

June 28, 2015
Feast of Ss. Cyrus and John

Beloved in Christ,
May God bless you always.
On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision that effectively defines “marriage” as legal between any two consenting adults throughout our country, regardless of their biological sex, a decision that will no doubt have sweeping effects in our society, not just for these couples but for children, families, churches, other religious organizations and all people of faith.

This action by the Court attempting to redefine marriage is deeply wrong, but it gives us an opportunity to reiterate for ourselves and also for our whole country the unchanging, timeless teaching of the Holy  Orthodox Church regarding marriage and sexuality.

With the creation of marriage by God for Adam and Eve, the first human bond was instituted. This bond preceded all the other social bonds of humanity, including not just governments but even the covenants that He Himself instituted. It is fundamental to human nature that marriage consists of one man and one woman in a lifelong, exclusive bond. Marriage is therefore not about private desire but about the complementary, conjugal bond of family, as created by God and blessed by Him.

It is only within that blessed bond that sexuality finds its proper expression. All other sexual behavior—
whether between a homosexual couple, an unmarried heterosexual couple, multiple people, a person by
himself, or anything else—is sinful, meaning that it distorts our relationship with God, each other and ourselves. Yet such actions, including their sanction by entering into one of these new legal unions, which are not truly marriages, can always be repented of. No one is a lost cause. No one is our enemy.

Repenting of our sins is what the Church is for. We are all sinners. Even if you do not have one temptation or one sin, you have others. So we do not condemn anyone for any reason. In love and faith, we hold out the hope of salvation through repentance for every human person.

This is teaching of the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ. It has never changed and can never change, even
if it costs us. We will continue to preach and to practice accordingly, and we expect that all of our pastors, teachers and parents will continue to do so. May God give you courage and love as you do so.

Yours in Christ,
Rt. Rev. Bishop THOMAS (Joseph)
Auxiliary Bishop, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic
“The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11: 26)

4407 Kanawha Ave. SE,
Charleston,WV 25304-1734
(724) 787-9832 Phone
bpthomasjoseph@gmail.com

Here is an additional public reflection on the recent Supreme Court decision by Fr. Archimandrite Maximos (Weimar), abbot of the Holy Cross Orthodox Monastery (ROCOR) in East Setauket, New York.

Since the landmark Supreme Court decision prohibiting states from banning same sex “marriage”, many of the faithful have asked me, “How do we react to this, what do we as Orthodox Christians do in this new political/legal/ social climate?”

The first thing to remember is that the actions of the civil government have no effect on the doctrines and teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church. The teachings of Christ and the Holy Fathers are never subject to the vagaries of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Those who expect the Orthodox Church can be made to “get with the times” are in for a very rude awakening. When the US Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman had a constitutional right to abort her children, the Orthodox Church completely and totally rejected such satanic nonsense. In the Book of Matthew it is written: “And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.( Matt 12). Caesar never dictates to us our morality or anything related to our spiritual life.

Our reactions to this decision must be informed by our Holy Orthodox faith. In light of the different legal and social environment we find ourselves in we must redouble our efforts to cling to the Church and to her sacred teachings. We must strive to become as Christ-like as we can, to become lights to a dark and suffering world. We must bear in mind that this world and all its might and glory and power is fleeting and will pass away as vapor in the wind. By becoming beacons of the Light of the Holy Spirit we will do more than by speaking 10,000 eloquent words. Sanctity has power to persuade where reason fails.

That being said, it is perfectly appropriate, for those who are so inclined, to speak out strongly against this terrible decision. It is encouraging that many of the bishops of the Orthodox Church have swiftly denounced the Supreme Court decision for what it is, something that is completely at variance with the teachings of the Orthodox Church. I have read many comments by fellow clergy that are also very systematic and eloquent denunciations of this inversion of marriage. Those who wish to be politically active in this matter should be encouraged to do so.

However, in our efforts to strongly and clearly denounce this decision, we must be careful to distinguish between those who are advocates of changing the position of the Holy Orthodox Church and those who are struggling with same sex attraction. We must not fall into a kind of “spiritual vigilantism”: that is attacking our brothers and sisters in Christ solely for their temptations and personal failings.

As St Maximos says: “He who busies himself with the sins of others, or judges his brother on suspicion, has not yet even begun to repent or to examine himself so as to discover his own sins, which are truly heavier than a great lump of lead; nor does he know why a man becomes heavy-hearted when he loves vanity and chases after falsehood (cf. Ps. 4:1). That is why, like a fool who walks in darkness, he no longer attends to his own sins but lets his imagination dwell on the sins of others, whether these sins are real or merely the products of his own suspicious mind.”

We must, as Orthodox Christians, keep our balance. We must live in this world, but we must not be of this world. As we sojourn in this world, we must always bear in mind that our time here is short and that we must always have in our heart the remembrance of death.