Word Magazine February 1994 Page 4-6
CONTEMPORARY MORAL ISSUES
STATEMENT ON ISSUES CONCERNING THE SANCTITY AND DIGNITY OF HUMAN LIFE
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST EXISTS to serve God’s truth and God’s love. This vocation of the Church, and of every Orthodox Christian, involves us all in the task of seeking the truth – to understand what is right and what is wrong; what is true and what is false; what reflects God’s truth and love; and what denies and rejects God. We are not permitted to lock our faith within the boundaries of what is considered by the culture to be the religious “dimension – the religious area of life.
The Orthodox Faith speaks to all of life. It speaks to all human choices; to all human commitments; to all human values. It is for this reason that we cannot be indifferent to the question of the sanctity of human life.
Our century has witnessed an unparalleled and unrelenting assault on human life and dignity. Unlike past eras where such attacks were perpetrated by tyrants and their minions, today they are waged across a broad spectrum of ostensibly respectable human institutions, including government, commerce, education, law, the sciences and the arts. Through the very agents of civilization, Man, who has been created in the image and likeness of God, is reduced to the status of a “rational animal.” We have been told that there are lives unworthy of life, and that a healthy beast could he more valuable than a defective child. Gods gift of gender and its attendant function of sexuality have been debased and perverted into the exercise of sensual gratification.
The value of an individual human life, once the crown of Creation, is now measured by such peripheral considerations as age, state of health, material possessions and the perceived ability to “contribute” to society. The subjective conditions of being “unwanted” and a “burden” have been translated into death sentences. The traditional Christian values of the sanctity and dignity of human life have been summarily dismissed by most of the cultures power structure.
This is the situation facing the Orthodox Church in the last decade of the 20th Century. Never has the witness of Orthodoxy been more critical for salvation and seldom in history has it been so lacking. In those areas of the world where the Church is being freed from decades of oppression and persecution, She appears to be vigorously proclaiming Christ. But here in the West Her voice, if not silent, has been muted on such fundamental issues as abortion, euthanasia, the acceptance of sexual perversion, and the destruction of marriage and the traditional family.
It is true that the Church in the United States and Canada, including the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, has spoken out strongly from time to time in protest of the abortion holocaust (over 30 million dead since 1973); but even on this issue we cannot pretend that there has been an overwhelming witness. In the case of other critical moral issues, such as euthanasia, genetic engineering and the promotion of the homosexual lifestyle, there has been virtual silence.
The Orthodox Church is solemnly committed to the affirmation of the divine purpose and value of human life. We believe that every human being, every man and every woman, is made in God’s image and likeness for everlasting life. ‘Therefore, we must present a credible witness on the sanctity and dignity of innocent human life in humility. With the Power of God we must address these critical issues in this closing decade of the 20th Century:
We hold that children are to be received by us as gifts of God, to be cared for lovingly, joyfully, and sacrificially. We believe that the willful abortion of children is an act of murder. We bear witness to the sanctity of life and are committed to prayerful, thoughtful action to help stem the present hemorrhaging of unborn human lives. We recognize our moral obligation to be a supportive community for those who adopt homeless, unwanted, or disabled children. We are followers of the One who said. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
WHEREAS the Orthodox Church, from its inception on the day of Pentecost, has condemned abortion as a grievous sin; and,
WHEREAS each and every innocent human life is unique and precious to God and that human life begins at the moment of conception and continues, uninterrupted, until the moment of natural death; and,
WHEREAS this situation is not dependent upon any factor other than our humanity, Peripheral conditions such as age, health, wealth, social status and societal perceptions of worth are totally unimportant. Our God is no respecter of persons; and,
WHEREAS the Webster decision by the Supreme Court of the United States of America has modified the 1973 decision of Roe vs. Wade relating to the abortion issue and has permitted each state to come forth and protect unborn human life as has occurred in Louisiana, Utah, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and Guam; and,
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down as unconstitutional all laws protecting the unborn and therefore no legislation currently exists regulating abortion in Canada; and,
WHEREAS innocent human life must always be protected and preserved, and in all possible ways available to each culture; and,
WHEREAS the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America has consistently spoken out in defense of the sanctity of life, and has done so in connection with contemporary threats to the life of the unborn, the handicapped, the infirm, and the elderly; and,
WHEREAS abortion in all cases has been condemned by the Orthodox Church in America unequivocally on the basis of Orthodox theology, which faithfully reflects for today nearly two thousand years of Christian doctrine and ethical teaching; and,
WHEREAS, before the end of this century, drug induced “do—it—yourself” abortion will more than likely be commonplace, and legislation will have little effect on whether or not a woman brings her child to term, except all such abortifacient drugs are made illegal;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America strongly reaffirms the Orthodox Church’s opposition to abortion in all cases, and that it does so on theological and moral grounds; commends the efforts of Orthodox bishops, clergy, and laity to bear witness to the sanctity of life in the public arena, especially noting in this connection the work and witness of Orthodox Christians for Life; and commits the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America to continued witness on behalf of the God—given sanctity of life;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America recognizes that opposition to and condemnation of abortion in all cases, except to save the life of the mother, is not enough. and that the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians have a moral obligation to work for the creation and maintenance of Orthodox adoption agencies and for the facilitation of adoption procedures for families to consider adopting a homeless or unwanted or disabled infant, regardless of the child’s racial or ethnic background in the realization that the Church as a whole and the parish community in particular is called to give active material and spiritual support to those who accept the responsibility of adoption and participate in crisis pregnancy centers;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT this Archdiocese recognizes and affirms spiritual, pastoral and educational efforts towards moral persuasion, directed to the father as much as to the mother, to help stem the present hemorrhaging of unwanted unborn human persons and lives, and asks Orthodox Christians throughout the United States and Canada to support those Pro— Life organizations that strive to protect the rights of the unborn.
EUTHANASIA OR MERCY KILLING:
WHEREAS all human beings who are in a condition of medical dependency because of illness, age, or for some other reason, must be provided with the basic amenities of food, water, cleanliness, warmth and relief from pain. These can never be considered as “extraordinary” measures in the context of medical treatment, and,
WHEREAS Christians do not fear bodily death but rather consider it as a Passover between earthly life and the life of the Kingdom. Therefore, all such medical treatments that prolong the dying process while offering no benefit to the individual (with the exception of those ordinary measures previously stated) may, in good conscience, be refused by the individual or those acting on his or her behalf. In some instances, even food and water may become, in the last hours of life when the body may be unable to accept them, a burden from which the sufferer should be delivered: however, these are individual circumstances which should always be judged in a Christian context, and,
WHEREAS the taking of a human life, however understandable the motive, is a serious sin directly and repeatedly forbidden by God. Even where it seems an act of mercy, such as an attempt to alleviate suffering, without sincere repentance, it will surely lead to a loss of God’s Kingdom. As Christians we acknowledge that we do not always recognize God’s will and why things happen as they do in our world. However, we have, as the followers of Christ, promised to place our trust in Him and His love for us and all mankind. This trust includes the patient acceptance of those burdens which may seem, at the time, to be unbearable.
BE IT RESOLVED that this Archdiocese, in accordance with the Tradition and theology of the Orthodox Church condemns all forms of euthanasia or “mercy killing.”
BIOMEDICAL (GENETIC) ENGINEERING:
WHEREAS attempts to genetically alter and/or restructure human genetic make-up, however well-intentioned, run grave risks of degenerating into the properly repudiated doctrine of eugenics and should, therefore, be pursued with extreme caution. It is better to err on the side of restraint, however worthy the cause or excellent the goal, and,
WHEREAS even those involved in the salutary effort to prevent and/or cure the diseases and abnormalities of humanity must never fail to recognize that people who suffer with such afflictions are not “failures,” but are human beings deserving of society’s protection whatever their perceived “quality of life.”
BE IT RESOLVED that this Archdiocese urges the greatest restraint in the field of genetic engineering; and that effort should be directed to alleviate suffering and hunger in this world without endangering Mankind or the environment.
MATTERS OF HUMAN SEXUALITY:
WHEREAS human sexuality is properly expressed in only two conditions instituted by God: chaste celibacy and chaste marriage, and,
WHEREAS one of the fruits of chaste marriage is children and all couples must be open to the possibility of obtaining or, conversely, not obtaining this blessing. We must remember in this situation Christ’s own submission to His Heavenly Father: “Thy will he done, and,
WHEREAS the physical act of love is limited in context to chaste marriage and in manner to normal genital intercourse. All other manifestations of the sexual act whether heterosexual or homosexual are perversions that are not and cannot ever be permissible or acceptable no matter how “sincere and “loving” the participants.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America in accordance with the Traditions and theology of the Orthodox Church condemns all expressions of sexuality outside the traditional heterosexual married condition.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that it is the homosexual act, and not the homosexual condition, that is to be condemned. Those afflicted with this condition should fervently pray to God for His healing Grace: it is our Christian vocation offer assistance in their search for Godly healing.
CHILD ABUSE AND EXPLOITATION:
WHEREAS children are made in the image and likeness of God and we hold that they are to be received by us as gifts of God, to be cared for lovingly, joyfully, and sacrificially.
BE IT RESOLVED that the Orthodox Church unequivocally condemns physical and psychological abuse of children and their exploitation; and especially pedophelia.
PORNOGRAPHY AND VIOLENCE:
BE IT RESOLVED that the Orthodox Church condemns all forms of pornography, and media violence whether it be printed material, television, or under the guise of art as they seriously disfigure the true nature of Man.
POPULATION CONCERNS IN CONTEXT TO THE ENVIRONMENT:
WHEREAS men and women are created in the image and after the likeness of God, and though the whole of Creation was brought forth and blessed by God. No other part or creature occupies that unique center. As followers of Christ, the New Adam, who has redeemed all of Creation, we are stewards of that Creation. Our proper concern for the environment can never allow us to approve of or indulge in acts inimical to human life. We cannot tolerate the schizophrenic attitude of “save the whales” and at the same time tolerate the killing of the unborn child, the seriously ill, or the elderly.
BE IT RESOLVED that perceived scarcity of resources can never be an excuse for either the neglect or the destruction of our fellow man. The purveyors of population control and those who speak apocalyptically of “the population bomb” and overpopulation must be challenged as to the veracity of their thesis. It is not that there are too many people for the resources, but that there is an inequitable distribution of those resources. It is our Christian vocation to alleviate suffering in accordance to God’s Plan.
This statement on the sanctity of human life was synthesized and expanded upon from the most recent statements issued from the Orthodox Church in America and the Antiochian Archdiocese. It is prayerfully hoped that this humble work will form a starting point from which the entire North American Orthodox Church can speak with power and with one voice on the moral crisis that threatens the very fabric of our society.