Dissent ~ A Commentary

In the ramp up to the vote in the House of Representatives on the Health Care bill this past weekend, there has been a very public dispute between the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island and the Congressman from that State Patrick Kennedy. Bishop Tobin, no stranger to public statements, has said that Kennedy is long longer a Catholic because he has strayed to far from the pack. (Those are my words not the good bishops).

So my question is how far can we go from church teaching before we stray from the pack? I don’t think we need to argue the point that the Roman Catholic Church is pro life. I know the argument that 60% of Catholics in the US support abortion rights. However, what people need to realize is that churches, well churches worth their salt, do not run polls on theology or moral positions. The Church hold that life begins at conception therefore an abortion is killing and dimming the Divine Spark that God has placed in the soul of the unborn child. I guess we could argue about abortion in the case of the life of the mother or in the case of incest or rape but in the US we are using abortion as a form of contraception. Now I am straying too far from the pack.

The Orthodox Church, like the Roman Church, has a certain set of beliefs. I hold the position that one must believe it all to be part of the group. You cannot, for example, not believe in the real presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the elements of communion and remain an Orthodox Christian. Social and moral issues can be a little tricky. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church the Orthodox Church does not have a magisterium or teaching office. Each bishop or synod of bishops can set it’s own policy and there really is no such thing as an official teaching of the Orthodox Church. Different bishops say different things or more often then not remain silent on the issues.

As an example, Orthodox Bishops for the most part, have been silent on the entire health care debate as well as other issues. The Bishops organization here in America is silent on many issues unless of course they involve the way people are treated in the homeland.

So when do we stray from the pack? The Church has rules that I believe are absolute and if you want to be part of that church then you have to believe what the church teaches or you find yourself on the outside looking in. I believe that we do not have the luxury of choosing what part of the faith we wish to believe and what parts we wish to ignore. We should not water down our faith to make us politically correct. Faith groups that have watered down their faith have become fractured and are going the way of the Dodo and will soon be extinct. Again, I believe that people need and want guidance and the guidance needs to be absolute not wishy washy.

The argument goes that we have a separation of church and state in this country. Agreed we do, but if you think that means the church cannot speak up on social issues then you need to go back to school. Actually it is called the Establishment Clause and it says that the government cannot establish a state religion, like they had in England. It does not say we cannot speak. I submit we have a duty to speak up when we see an injustice and we need to teach our people what the church teaches on certain issues. I will also submit that if you don’t like what your church teaches then maybe it is time to move on to another church, or like so many have done, start your own.

Asking questions is good, search for answers to difficult question is welcome. But we do not run the church on focus groups or polls. Church teaching is Church teaching. Take it or leave it.


  1. I am against abortion, because I believe that it is murder of the unborn. All Orthodox Christians, as well as Catholic Christians, must be against abortion; otherwise, they are in violation of the teachings of their Church.

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