President Obama’s Remarks At National Prayer Breakfast

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Elise Hilton (Acton PowerBlog).

obama prayer breakfastThe National Prayer Breakfast, a D.C.-event going back to 1953, was held this morning. The keynote was USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and President Obama added remarks. Obama chose to focus on religious freedom, calling it a matter of “national security,” and commenting that he was looking forward to his trip to the Vatican next month to meet with Pope Francis.

Obama also said,

Yet even as our faith sustains us, it’s also clear that around the world freedom of religion is under threat. And that is what I want to reflect on this morning. We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love. Old tensions are stoked, fueling conflicts along religious lines, as we’ve seen in the Central African Republic recently, even though to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God. Extremists succumb to an ignorant nihilism that shows they don’t understand the faiths they claim to profess — for the killing of the innocent is never fulfilling God’s will; in fact, it’s the ultimate betrayal of God’s will.


While the president clearly wanted to focus on religious freedom outside the United States, those words are true within our nation as well. For instance, the Little Sisters of the Poor make it their mission to love, care for and minister to indigent elderly, yet the Obama Administration’s HHS mandate puts their mission in peril. The president’s administration has tried to quell the furor over forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor (and other organizations like them) by offering to have them sign a “waiver” that would allow a third party to provide artificial birth control, abortifacients and abortion coverage, which the government says isn’t a big deal, but those asked to sign say it violates their conscience. That doesn’t seem like an administration truly committed to freedom of religion.

In 2012, the Supreme Court heard the case of Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC, a case where the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged that a church had unfairly dismissed an employee for “insubordination and disruptive conduct,” and that she should be re-instated. The government

…escalated the dispute, arguing that there should be no ministerial exception and that any minister — even a priest, a rabbi, or a pastor of a congregation — should be able to sue the church that employs him.  This would be a revolution in church-state relations.

The court “unanimously rejected its [the government's] narrow view of religious liberty as ‘extreme,’ ‘untenable’ and remarkable.’”

Mr. President, while religious freedom anywhere should be a concern to all good people, perhaps your administration could pay a bit more attention to it in your own backyard.

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Good for the US Catholic Bishops!

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I’ve written before on the threat to religious liberty inherent in the HSS regulation that employers pay for artificial contraception and abortion inducing drugs for their employees. Besides the morally dubious nature of what is required, there regulation provides only very narrowly defined religious exemptions (primarily for houses of worship). More worrisome still is the Obama administrations contention that for-profit business owners have no legal right to object to the mandate and that, as a state court in New Mexico said in a different matter, providing services that violate the individual’s conscience just “the cost of doing business.”

At the conclusion of their meeting yesterday in Baltimore, the Catholic bishops in the United States told the administration they would not comply with the mandate. While the Orthodox position on contraception is slightly different, we hold the same position on abortion. In any case, through our own bishops we have already offered our support to the Catholic Church on this matter.

The mandate is simply an offense to conscience and religious liberty. Good for the Catholic bishops for standing up to the administration’s bullying tactics! May God prosper the works of their hands as the offer a witness to the freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and the freedom of the Church!

You can read more in the article below the signature line.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

U.S. Bishops to President Obama: NO, We Will Not Comply

Source: Seasons of Grace.

U.S. Bishops to President Obama: NO, We Will Not Comply

The Catholic bishops of the United States, at the conclusion of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, have issued a SPECIAL MESSAGE which takes aim at the policies of President Obama and the current Administration.

The statement, which was passed by unanimous vote, concerned the HHS Mandate and the threat which the Mandate poses to religious freedom in this nation.  The statement asserts:

Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care. 

 

Cardinal Dolan addressing the Fall General Assembly of the USCCB

Lifenews.com explains the force of the bishops’ resolve:

Given a choice of paying millions of dollars in fines or complying with a government mandate he thinks is morally wrong, Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh testified in court this week that he would rather pay the fines. From a report on his appearance:

“I would not be able to live with myself knowing that we’re contradicting what we believe,” he said during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab.

Under the law’s penalties, Catholic Charities would be subject to a daily fine of $100 per employee if Zubik doesn’t sign, said Susan Rauscher, the nonprofit’s executive director. That would total $2 million to $4 million a year for an organization with a $10 million operating budget, she said.

The Pittsburgh and Erie diocese are suing the government, claiming that the requirement violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They’re asking Schwab to temporarily block enforcement of the mandate on their nonprofits while the dioceses pursue the lawsuits.

Bishop Lawrence Persico, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, testified that signing the document would cause the church to cooperate in the provision of “immoral” services.

Following is the USCCB statement in its entirety. 

A Special Message from the Bishops of the United States

The bishops of this country have just concluded their traditional fall meeting in Baltimore and have spent time on issues important to them and their people: help to those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan; an update on the situation in Haiti; matters of worship and teaching; service to the poor; and comprehensive immigration reform. Among those priorities is the protection of religious freedom, especially as threatened by the HHS mandate.

Pope Francis has reminded us that “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”

We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness. Our great ministries of service and our clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful, especially those involved in Church apostolates, strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so.

Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.

Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.

The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.

As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.

This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.

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The 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

I wanted to get this up earlier but here it is, a bit late but still relevant.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

(Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America) Forty years ago the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision, known as Roe v. Wade, granting a “right” for women of the United States to terminate the lives of their children in the womb. This decision has resulted in some 54 million children’s lives ending almost before they began.

The Holy Orthodox Christian Faith is unabashedly pro-life. The Lord Jesus Christ was recognized and worshipped in His mother’s womb while yet unborn by the Holy Forerunner who was also still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44); St. Basil the Great (4th Century), one of the universal teachers of the faith, dared to call murderers those who terminate the life of the fetus. The Church has consistently held that children developing in the womb should be afforded every protection given to those outside the womb. There is no moral, religious or scientific rationale which can justify making a distinction between the humanity of the newly-conceived and that of the newly-born.

Abortion on demand not only ends the life of a child, but also injures the mother of that child, often resulting in spiritual, psychological and physical harm. Christians should bring the comfort of the Gospel to women who have had abortions, that our loving God may heal them. The Orthodox Church calls on her children, and indeed all of society, to provide help to pregnant mothers who need assistance brining their children safely into the world and providing these children loving homes.

On the occasion of this sorrowful anniversary, and as we mourn the violence we all too often visit upon one another, as exemplified by the recent mass killings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, we pray for an end to the violence of abortion. Surely the many ways in which we as a people diminish the reverence and respect for human life underlie much of this violence. The disrespect for human life in the womb is no small part of this. Let us offer to Almighty God our repentance for the evil of abortion on demand and extend our hearts and hands to embrace life.

On the occasion of this 40th Anniversary of “Roe v. Wade,” we republish the following “Agreed Statement” issued in 1974 by the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Bilateral Consultation in the United States (composed of representatives from the former SCOBA and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops) a statement as timely now as it was then:

An Agreed Statement on Respect for Life

We, the members of the Orthodox-Roman Catholic Bilateral Consultation in the United States, after extensive discussions on the sanctity of marriage, feel compelled to make a statement concerning the inviolability of human life in all its forms.

We recognize that human life is a gift of God entrusted to mankind and so feel the necessity of expressing our shared conviction about its sacred character in concrete and active ways. It is true that the Christian community’s concern has recently seemed to be selective and disproportionate in this regard, e.g., in the anti-abortion campaign. Too often human life has been threatened or even destroyed, especially during times of war, internal strife, and violence, with little or no protestation from the Christian leadership. Unfortunately, the impression has frequently been given that churchmen are more concerned with establishing the legitimacy of war or capital punishment than with the preservation of human life. We know that this has been a scandal for many, both believers and unbelievers.

We feel constrained at this point in history to affirm that the “right to life” implies a right to a decent life and to full human development, not merely to a marginal existence.

We affirm that the furthering of this goal for the unborn, the mentally handicapped, the aging, and the underprivileged is our duty on a global as well as a domestic scale.

We deplore in particular the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision failing to recognize the rights of the unborn–a decision which has led to widespread indiscriminate early abortion.

We affirm our common Christian tradition with regard to the right of the unborn to life.

We acknowledge our responsibility to mediate the love of Christ, especially to the troubled expectant mother, and thus make possible the transmission and nurturing of new life and its fully human development.

We urge our churches and all believers to take a concrete stand on this matter at this time and to exemplify this evangelical imperative in their personal lives and professional decisions.

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Metropolitan Tikhon: Sanctity of Life Sunday 2013

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Source: OCA.org

Sanctity of Life Sunday 2013

Sanctity of Life

January 27, 2013

To the Hierarchs, Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America

Dearly Beloved in the Lord:

As we make our way into the civil New Year, we continue to grieve over the tragic loss of the innocent lives at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Those directly affected by this most recent act of violence, as well as those who have suffered through the many other examples of inhuman brutality during the past year, undoubtedly will require a long period during which they can find healing for their broken hearts and answers to their questions concerning the providence of God and the goodness of humanity.

Our society is increasingly weary of the sting of death and human sin and wary of the proclamations of hope and life coming from religious circles. Young people, unconvinced by shallow theology and hypocritical sermonizing, are increasingly identifying themselves as unbelievers, atheists, questioners or simply confused. People of all ages are losing faith or becoming critical of it, in part because they do not seem to find a satisfactory Christian response to tragedies such as the Newtown and Aurora massacres.

As Orthodox Christians, we too dwell under the shadow cast by every assault on the sanctity of human life, whether it be against the unborn, the infirm, the terminally ill, the condemned, or innocent school children. We, too, wrestle with the same questions with which society wrestles, since every one of us faces the same reality of death. But unlike those who have no hope, we know that, just when death seems to have gained the victory, life blossoms forth, as seen most clearly in Christ’s arising from the tomb on the third day.

The same paschal confirmation of death being swallowed up by life is revealed in our most recent celebration of the feasts of the Nativity and Theophany of Christ. The months of December and January are the richest in commemorations of some of the most venerable saints of the Church: Prophets and Ancestors who pave the way for the birth of the Savior and Hierarchs, Confessors and Monastics who shine with the glory that was revealed at His baptism. But no less proclaimers of His glory and His life are the martyrs, including those little ones who suffered incomprehensibly—the Holy Innocents.

We proclaim, as Orthodox Christians, that all life is a participation in and reflection of the One Who is Life Itself. And we do so, even in the midst of the insanity of this world, knowing that human passions and human sin may cause destruction in our communities. But Christ Himself, by His example of voluntary suffering, reminds us that we have our part to play in proclaiming life. If we are to transform the collective heart and mind of our society, we must begin by transforming our own hearts and minds.

Heeding the Gospel, let us remain faithful to the vision of human life as a sacred gift, recommitting ourselves to defending the lives “of all mankind,” as we pray at every Divine Liturgy. And let us commit ourselves to bearing witness to the life of Christ in all we do, say and think, so that even in small ways, we might proclaim the glory of the Kingdom not yet fully revealed, but already fully present in our midst.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
SIGNATURE
+TIKHON
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All America and Canada

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At Least Someone Had A Good Year

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(Source: Mirror of Justice): Planned Parenthood: A Record Year

Requests for contraceptive services apparently are in decline at Planned Parenthood.  And Planned Parenthood has decreased its cancer screening services by nearly a third. But public funding for Planned Parenthood continues to go up.  As do abortions.

While Planned Parenthood set a record for the last fiscal year in pulling in half-a-billion dollars from the taxpayers — amounting to nearly half of its funding — it has been downsizing services other than termination of pregnancies (here).  During the past three years alone, the nation’s largest abortion provider has snuffed out the lives of a million unborn babies.

The Pro-Life movement may be winning hearts and minds (here).  And praise God for His mercy in drawing the young people to Him.

In the meantime, we must not forget the grim reality that daily “terminates” innocent lives in abortion clinics around this country — nearly a thousand little ones destroyed each day in Planned Parenthood clinics, as that organization draws in hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds with the support of its primary patron in the White House.  The Obama years are proving to be the most lucrative for the abortion industry.

Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

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Liturgy and Elections

Earlier today, I read Fr Patrick Henry Reardon’s pastoral letter “This Year’s Election” (you can download the pdf here). Like Fr Patrick, if it is at all possible I avoid discussions on partisan politics. The only exception is on those issues  where the Church has clearly spoke. I think Father has identified three of these areas.

First, the origin of human rights. These, since they come directly from the hand of God, are determined by the moral law. That is to say, no political institution can give citizens a right to do something wrong—not the Constitution, not the Congress, not the Supreme Court.

Second, the unborn child in the womb has an absolute right to be born. This right, which comes from God, is subject to no qualifying circumstances, including the conditions of the child’s conception and the health of the mother. One may not murder an unborn baby. A baby in the womb has the same right to life as its mother and her doctor.

Third, marriage is the union of a man and woman. This principle, rooted in God’s creating act, can be altered by no decision of any institution or agency of government. No one can be given a right to do a wrong. Whatever name is conferred upon it, state-sponsored sodomy is an abomination to the created order. It is a radical offense against the divine Logos.

Unfortunately, this puts the Church in a more critical posture toward the Democratic Party. We shouldn’t however assume from this that the Republican Party is somehow the “Orthodox” choice or that its policies are exempt from criticism. Much less can we assume that one party and not the other has received the Church’s blessing. In fact,

About policies—most questions of political concern—we may expect some legitimate disagreements among Christians. Among these we should include questions about the application of civil punishments, the funding of public education, the tax code, the authority of federal agencies, this or that social program, and so forth. These matters, properly governed by prudence, leave much room for legitimate disagreements among Christians.

But, there are “matters on which there can be no legitimate disagreement among Christians.” And this places Orthodox Christians I think in a difficult position. Continue reading

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