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MESSAGE OF THE MONTH
The Slaughter of the Innocents
By Fr. Alexandros Agonistes
A Three-Month(!) Old Baby in the Safety of Her Mother's Womb
From the OH Editor:Our publication is honored to publish in our first 2007 issue, and on the grievous 34th anniversary of that ungodly Supreme Court decision that has given legal status to the slaughter of God’s most precious and innocent human beings, a superb and long-overdue article which we pray will be read by all of our Orthodox brethren, world-wide. May His divine mercy be upon all of us and may 2007 become a year of renewed interest and activism by all Orthodox Christians against the evil practice of abortion.
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[I]f thou speak not to warn the lawless one from his way, the lawless one himself shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at thy hand.
On December 29th, our Holy Church commemorated the Holy 14,000 Infants slain by Herod. The Synaxarion gives us the following description of this infanticide: That foe [i.e., Herod] of the infant-fashioning Infant, destroyed—with the sword—the mothers’ unripe infants. How perfectly these few words describe a slaughter of innocents that has been taking place, “legally,” in the United States for the past 34 years: a slaughter in which over 45 million “unripe infants” have been brutally killed inside the womb of their mothers; a slaughter in which Herod is no longer an insane Hebrew King, but is found in the form of “law-abiding citizens” from many professions—physicians, nurses, counselors, lawyers, judges, politicians and even clergy; a slaughter in which the mother (usually with the encouragement of the child’s father) is no longer trying to protect the infant that the “infant-fashioning Infant” is forming in her womb, but is paying money to have him/her killed; a slaughter that has almost annihilated the soul of a nation, and is preparing millions of “law-abiding citizens” for eternal damnation.
While I have a deep sadness in my heart because of this satanic infanticide that takes place daily in our hospitals and the various abortion chambers, my grief intensifies when I reflect on what awaits the unrepentant perpetrators and supporters of this ungodly slaughter of God’s little ones—especially those who are Orthodox Christians. Forgive my naivety, but I cannot comprehend how someone, who has been baptized of water and the Spirit into the One True Church, could ever—in any way—be a participant in this very great sin against the One Who became an Infant in order to bring us home to Paradise. How can an Orthodox Christian physician receive money to destroy, in brutal fashion, aliving ikon of the newborn Child, the pre-eternal God? What causes Orthodox lawyers and judges to defend the satanic law of man that sanctions this slaughter, and deny the law of God that condemns it? Why do Orthodox nurses and family counselors choose to become willing accomplices to these heinous crimes against the crown of God’s creation? How is it possible that Orthodox politicians, on the local, state and national levels, would choose to continually vote in support of the “pro-death” (falsely called “pro-choice”) viewpoint? Finally, what makes an Orthodox woman choose to have her child’s life ended, before he/she takes its first breath?
There are many “secondary” reasons that are frequently offered in an attempt to explain a mother’s decision, such as: environment, financial condition, social standing, family pressure, and irresponsibility. And there is at least one “secondary” reason that can be applied to all of the other professions mentioned above: the individuals having chosen to adapt their reasoning to the self-centered, secular-humanistic mindset that is so prevalent in our society today.
However, I believe there are two primary—interrelated—reasons that explain why Orthodox Christians willingly support and/or participate in the slaughter of the innocents: (1) The great majority of these misguided souls have yet to find what it means to be an Orthodox Christian. They may have some awareness of its form, but they are unaware of its essence. (2) The Orthodox Jurisdictions—in general, and the individual clergy, in particular—are not ‘standing up’ on behalf of the 4,000+ unborn (and occasionally, partially-born) children that are being legally murdered everyday!
It is beyond the scope of this article to give an in-depth description of the first reason. Let us simply say that all Orthodox Christians need to have a spiritual father, confess their sins regularly, and strive to apply the Christ-centered life of our Faith in all of their thoughts, words, and actions. In this way, with God’s grace: striving to worship God, in spirit and in truth, (Jn 4:24) will become the center of their daily lives; the Gospel of Jesus Christ will take flesh within them; and such things as defending the right to life for the child in the womb will be inherent to their character.
We will concentrate our efforts on the 2nd reason as to why many Orthodox Christians today give their support to—and/or participate in—the “pro-death” mentality that is saturating our land, and their hands, with innocent blood. Much of the fault can be placed upon the failure of the Orthodox Hierarchy and parish priests to do such things as: (1) Through the teachings of the Holy Church Fathers on the sanctity of human life, unconditionally condemn the 1973 Supreme Court decision by means of sermons, newsletters, and group meetings on behalf of their faithful; (2) Contact the doctors (and other health care people such as nurses, social workers and family counselors), lawyers/judges, and politicians living within their respective diocese/parishes, to determine if they are involved in the abortion culture, and—if they are—to call them to repentance; (3) Refuse Holy Communion and—out of true love for their souls—excommunicate those who do not repent of this horrible sin; (4) Try to locate the wounded souls, who have had an abortion but have not yet gone to confession, and ask their permission to bring them God’s healing grace and forgiveness. Let us now look briefly at each of these four subjects individually.
Informing the Faithful as to the Great Evil of “Legalized” Abortion
On a Diocesan level, at least four Jurisdictions within SCOBA (The Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America) have made verbal pronouncements: The Orthodox Church in America (OCA); The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America (AOA); the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA (CROA); and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). The strongest comments appear to have come from the OCA, beginning in the very year (1973) that abortion become legal. The late Metropolitan Ireney called the legalization “a horrible symbol of [our nation’s] moral decay … [and a] frightening transgression of the most sacred of all Divine commandments.” His Beatitude then sent a telegram to President Nixon, signed by all the Bishops of the OCA Synod, entreating him to “initiate all constitutional procedures to reverse this tragic decision.” In 1989, the All-American Conference of the OCA issued a very strong series of resolutions: condemning abortion “in all cases;” establishing the Sunday nearest the date of January 22nd as Sanctity of Life Sunday; calling for spiritual, pastoral, and educational efforts on the diocesan and parish levels; and recommending active support be given to the Orthodox Christians for Life (founded in 1986 by Fr. Edward Pehanich of the CROA and Deacon John Protopapas of the OCA. We will talk about this group at the end of this article).
The weakest archdiocesan involvement in combating the legalization of abortion is that of the GOA. In 1976, the Clergy-Laity Congress issued a brief position statement (not a series of resolutions, which both the OCA and AOA have done) that begins by accurately noting the Orthodox Church regards abortion as the murder of a human being. However, it then states—quite erroneously—that the Orthodox Church permits abortion “if the preponderance of medical ‘opinion’ determines that unless the embryo or fetus is aborted, the mother will die.” And the final sentence is very disappointing: “Decisions by State and National governments which allow abortion, with or without restrictions should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs on the sanctity of life.” An affront --- an insult? The following words of Deacon Protopapas are far more appropriate to describe how the Orthodox Christian should regard legalized abortion: “Killing an innocent human being can be seen as an act of blasphemy against God. It is the ultimate act of iconoclasm.”
Other than four Orthodox Hierarchs (2 OCA, 1 CPOA, and 1 GOA) participating—with several hundred Orthodox Christians—in the annual March for Life on a few occasions, and a few written statements in the past from Orthodox Primates (such as that of Metropolitan Theodosius in 1980), this writer is not aware of any other major developments in defense of the unborn child at the diocesan levels over the past 34 years.
Contacting Orthodox in the Medical, Political and Legal Professions to Verify that They Are not Involved—in Any Way—with the “Pro-Death” Culture
Some people, perhaps even the majority, may regard this as an unwarranted intrusion by the Church into the personal life of the individual. That may be a reflection of the fact that most Orthodox Christians in our nation are not seeking healing for the wounds in their souls. Could this be caused by the bishops and priests not fervently proclaiming the Gospel message of repentance and confession to the wounded souls entrusted to their care? God knows, and so do the clergy that have chosen to maintain an external, superficial relationship with their flock, rather than become—through God’s grace—the spiritual physicians of their souls.
How many of these professionals are in grave danger of losing their soul, because they are not being approached by their priests? In the majority of the local Orthodox communities in North America, the parish priest would probably have to contact less than a dozen souls; and, most likely, only a few of those professionals would be abortion providers or supporters. Such a personal pastoral visitation would allow the priest to: present the Orthodox teaching on abortion in a compassionate manner; bring the individual’s soul to accountability; and encourage the person to repent, receive Confession, and forever abandon being a perpetrator of, or an accomplice to, the murder of pre-born children.
In the past 34 years of legalized abortions, how many hierarchs and priests have tried to determine if any of their members are involved in the multi-billion dollar abortion industry? How many of our clergy brothers in Christ are aware that one or more of their faithful are abortion providers, but have chosen to ignore this fact? How many of us, who offer the Bloodless Sacrifice in every Divine Liturgy, should be convicted by these words spoken by God to His Prophet, Ezekiel: …[I]f thou speak not to warn the lawless one from his way, the lawless one himself shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at thy hand.
Excommunicating, out of Love for their Souls, the Unrepentant Abortion Providers and Accomplices
There is something far worse than a priest/bishop who chooses to overlook an Orthodox Christian who is guilty, in some manner, of the sin of abortion: allowing these poor souls all the rights of a so-called ‘member in good standing’ --- including the ability to receive the Most Holy Life-giving Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Not only will these clergymen have to answer to God for the blood of these unrepentant Christians, they will also become accomplices of the blood from the innocent “little ones” being executed through the actions of those whom they have chosen to ignore. How can this pastoral neglect of dying souls be regarded as an act of love? Furthermore, if the bishop or priest gives honors to these self-excommunicated people, how can they be led to tears of repentance, forgiveness and healing?
If these Orthodox Christians are ever to have any hope for salvation, then their parish priests must prohibit them from receiving the Cup of Life; and their hierarchs must officially excommunicate them. But this does not mean that the clergy then totally abandons them. On the contrary, they should be praying daily for God to lead them to repentance; and be ready to embrace them, when they “come to themselves” --- desiring to return to their Father’s House, in order to receive forgiveness and healing.
Unfortunately, we have not been informed of any such healing-centered excommunications. For it would be necessary for every Orthodox Jurisdiction to officially notify the local parishes of such ecclesiastical actions, in order that the excommunicated soul could not simply go to a church within another Orthodox Jurisdiction and receive Holy Communion. Therefore, the Orthodox doctor—who receives money to murder pre-born babies—can still be praised for giving thousands of dollars of his blood money to his parish or Diocese; the Orthodox judge, who continues—through his decisions—to uphold the satanic law allowing this infanticide, can remain as Parish Council President; the Orthodox politician, who consistently casts his vote in favor of abortion, can remain as the Sunday School teacher for the high school class; and the Orthodox woman, who continues to believe that it was her right to have an abortion, can begin her second term as the President of the Philoptochos.
While the above hypothetical situations may—or may not —exist in the real world, the following illustration is one offact: In the GOA, there are two U.S. Senators, a woman from Maine and a man from Maryland, who have voted the pro-death position every time for three decades. It saddens me deeply to say that they both also voted—on two occasions—to uphold President Clinton’s veto of the law that would have outlawed partial birth abortion. That is the disgusting ungodly procedure, during which the only portion of the live baby not outside the womb is his/her precious little head. Next, the doctor uses scissors to open a hole at the base of the baby’s skull. Then he inserts a tube in the hole and suctions out the child’s brains. Finally, he removes the head of the dead child from the mother’s birth canal, and disposes of the body. How can any human being, much less an Orthodox Christian, vote in favor of such a despicable crime? Nevertheless, both of these Greek Orthodox Christians have received numerous honors, and praises from GOA Hierarchs and priests, over the past 30 years. For example, the distinguished Senator from Maryland has received such honors from the GOA as: an Honorary Doctor’s Degree from the Hellenic College/Holy Cross School of Theology; the Leadership 100 Award of Excellence in 2003; being selected to offer the Keynote Address at the National Clergy-Laity Congress in New Orleans in 1992.
Fortunately, this Senator officially retired on December 31,2006. However, what bishop or priest is going to approach him and try to lead him to repentance? Is there some Orthodox clergyman who has enough love for the soul of the Orthodox Senator from Maine to admonish her? Will the Synod of Bishops of the GOA issue orders of excommunication for these two politicians, if they refuse to beg for forgiveness for being willing accomplices to the murder of millions of pre-born babies? Will they excommunicate every Orthodox doctor who performs abortions, or will they continue to ignore their sacred responsibility to God and His Church? When will all Orthodox Hierarchs and Priests begin to seek out—in an effort to save their souls from perdition—those Orthodox Christians that are actively involved, on some level, in the killing of the children being formed—by the “infant-forming Infant”—in the wombs of their mothers? Listen, O Bishops and Priests, who choose to not hear the cries of the slaughtered innocent ones! Hear the word of the Lord and tremble: …[I]f thou speak not to warn the lawless one from his way, the lawless one himself shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at thy hand.
Seeking out the Wounded Souls that Have Had Abortions, But Have Yet to Repent and Receive the Mysterion of Confession
There are untold numbers of Orthodox women in America —perhaps several thousand—who have had one or more abortions. While many have had the conviction to seek forgiveness and healing through Confession and the pastoral care of their priests, many more are still in need of the spiritual medication of their Church in order to successfully restore their broken souls to wholeness.
The time has come for all Orthodox Hierarchs to prepare compassionate letters to be read in all of the local churches that are under their respective care --- entreating all such women to come home. It would seem appropriate for such an epistle to be read from the pulpits on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son on February 4, 2007.
Perhaps each parish priest could offer a sermon on January 21, 2007 (the day before the 34th Anniversary of that ungodly Supreme Court decision), to serve as a forerunner to the pastoral encyclical of his Bishop. The Gospel lesson relates how Zacchaeos of Jericho climbed a tree, in order to rise above the crowd and get a view of Jesus. The priests could explain that, everyday, our All-compassionate Lord Jesus walks near the ‘Jericho’ of the soul of every woman that has been sorely wounded by having the child within them forcibly removed and discarded. In a mystical way, each woman needs to ascend the ‘tree’ of courage. Then, she will rise above the “crowds” of despair, fear, anti-depressants and false identities, with which the demons have helped her to surround her soul. If the priest prays and fasts all week in preparation for this sermon, his Spirit-filled words can become that tree of courage for the woman to mystically ascend; from where she will be able to “hear” the inner call to “make haste and come down” into the presence of her Lord, through the Mysterion of Confession. And having confessed this grave sin with many tears, the house of her soul will, indeed, hear the Lord proclaiming: Today salvation has RETURNED to this house!
I grieve within my heart for all women, especially our Orthodox daughters in Christ, who have had abortions. It is my firm belief that the vast majority of them would have never aborted their children, if they had been able to speak with someone—like their priest, or a lay person with the skill and understanding that could speak to their heart—regarding the sacredness of the life growing within them. It would seem that the group, Orthodox Christians for Life, could be of great benefit to our Church’s efforts to: educate the faithful on the grave sin of abortion; help persuade women not to abort their children; bring healing to women who have had abortions; and identify, contact, admonish and—if needed, as a last resort in an effort to save their souls—officially excommunicate all those professionals that perform (or assist in) the slaughter of God’s innocent ones.
As mentioned earlier, this Orthodox pro-life group was sanctioned by two major Jurisdictions over 17 years ago. However, there must not have been very much follow-up. Why is it that there are over 1000 Orthodox Churches in the United States, and over 2 million Orthodox Christians, but only 800 souls—world-wide—have joined this group? I propose that every Orthodox parish and diocese establish a local chapter of Orthodox Christians for life—today. Their website is:http://www.oclife.org, and mailing address: P.O. Box 805 – Melville, NY 11747, USA. They have prepared an outstanding handbook on abortion, euthanasia, and stem-cell research that every Orthodox bishop and priest needs to read.
O Holy Orthodox Hierarchs, and my brother priests that serve under their authority, as you read these words: Orthodox doctors are preparing to kill children of the “infant-forming Infant,” and Orthodox nurses, counselors, lawyers and politicians are willingly assisting them; Orthodox women are being persuaded by their boyfriends and others to kill the child growing within them; Orthodox women that have had abortions are suffering in great pain --- critically in need of compassion and healing for their wounded souls! It is time for action! Thus saith the Lord,
…[I]f thou speak not to warn the lawless one from his way, the lawless one himself shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at thy hand.
+Fr. Alexandros Agonistes